Welcome back to the last of the “how the heck do I give notice to move out” posts. You can read the first one here, and the second one here. This post is going to talk about fixed term tenancies and what steps you can take to end one.
First, let’s talk about what a fixed term lease actually means. The way a fixed term tenancy works is that both the tenant and landlord are bound by the terms in the lease, including the period of for which the property is going to be rented. The tenant gets some bonuses (the landlord can’t increase the rent during the term of the lease, the landlord can’t end the tenancy during the term of the agreement unless the tenant has done something wrong, etc.), and so does the landlord (the landlord knows that the property will be rented for a guaranteed period of time for a specific amount of money). Most issues come up when one side decides that they don’t want to be bound by the lease anymore. For example, the landlord decides to sell the property and wants the tenant to move out early, or the tenant’s job moves, or is lost, and the tenant needs to move somewhere else.
So, how do you end a fixed term tenancy? You cannot just give a month’s notice like you would for a monthly periodic tenancy. You signed a contract, and one of the terms that you promised to follow was the length of time you would rent the place. The nature of a fixed term tenancy is that the tenancy only ends under the terms of the contract (for example, the tenancy will end on the date stated in the lease), or if the landlord and the tenant agree to end the tenancy early. You can always try to talk to your landlord to see if the landlord is okay with an early end date. If you are able negotiate and come up with an agreement, you should put this agreement in writing. Remember, your landlord does not have to release you from your obligations that you have, so it’s a good idea to think of some negotiating points (“this will give you time to paint the apartment like you said you wanted to do. With all new paint, I bet you could charge more rent”) and to be nice. You are asking for a favour from your landlord, so be courteous and act in a reasonable manner.
If your landlord won’t agree to end the lease early, what can you do? Well, you might be able to sublet or assign your place. Generally speaking, this means that you would find someone who wanted to rent your place, and then that person would move into the property and you would move out. Under an assignment, you would generally give your entire interest in the property over to the new tenant. In a sublet, you would remain responsible, along with the new person, for all obligations of the original lease. So, if your subtenant did not pay rent, then your landlord could come after you to collect the unpaid rent. You must request your landlord’s permission in writing before you assign or sublet. If your landlord does not respond to your request within 14 days, then you can assume that the landlord consented.
What happens if none of these options work for you, and you go ahead and move out anyway? Well, there are consequences that you have to weigh. You remain responsible to pay the rent until the tenancy ends (either because the landlord rents to a new tenant, or the end date in your fixed term occurs). This means that if, for example, you moved out in March and you were supposed to live there until September 30, then you must continue to pay the rent until either the place is rented out again, or until September 30 comes. Your landlord must try to rent out the property again. The landlord has to do all of the things that s/he would normally do to find a new tenant. And if you’re thinking right now that you can just ignore the landlord’s demands for payment, think again. The landlord can contact a collection agency to try and collect the debt, or can make an application against you.
The chances of you getting your security deposit decrease as well. Your lease might have a term that says that if you break the lease, then you must pay the landlord some money in fees, and these fees, if you don’t pay them, can be deducted from the security deposit. You can find out more about these fees in Service Alberta’s Voluntary Code of Practice here. Also, you might be paying rent on your new place and won’t be able to afford to pay rent on the old place, and the landlord can deduct unpaid rent from the security deposit.
Well, we’ve covered most of the common concerns that come up when a tenant wants to move out of the property. Until next time, stay away from those home design magazines at the check-out counter, as they will only lead to a vague feeling of dissatisfaction when you get home.