Tenant Notice to End Tenancy

If a tenant doesn’t serve proper notice or leaves a tenancy early, they may be required to pay compensation if the landlord loses money.

Serving Notice Properly

A tenant must give a landlord written notice to end their tenancy – both parties should keep a copy. The notice needs to include the:

  • Tenant’s name
  • Date
  • Address of the rental unit
  • Date the tenant plans to leave
  • Tenant’s signature

Multiple tenants: If any one of the tenants on a tenancy agreement serves the landlord notice to end the tenancy, the tenancy ends for all of the tenants in the rental unit on the effective date of the notice. A written agreement with the landlord is required for any tenants who want to continue renting the unit.

There are rules about how and when a tenant can serve notice to a landlord.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

For a month-to-month, or periodic tenancy agreement, a tenant must serve written notice to end the tenancy so that it’s received:

  • At least one month before the effective date of the notice, and
  • Before the day that rent is due

In order for the tenancy to end the following month, the landlord has to receive the notice before the date the rent is normally paid. For example, if rent is due on the first day of the month, a notice given on March 15 would not take effect until the last day of April and the tenant would have to pay rent for the month of April.

Unless they have written permission from the landlord or the Residential Tenancy Branch, the tenant must pay the rent for the last month of the tenancy – even if they move out earlier.

To avoid disputes, both the landlord and tenant should be clear about when the tenant’s notice requires the tenant to move out. This is especially the case for tenancies where rent is due on a date other than the first of the month.

When a tenant has given written notice to the landlord, it cannot be cancelled or withdrawn unless the landlord agrees in writing.

Fixed-Term Tenancies

If a fixed-term tenancy agreement (or a lease) has a move-out clause that requires the tenant to move out at the end of the term, the tenant can move at the end of the term without giving the landlord notice.

When a fixed-term agreement doesn’t require the tenant to move out at the end of the term, the tenant must serve written notice to end the tenancy so that it’s received:

  • At least one month before the effective date of the notice, and
  • Before the day that rent is due

The effective date of the notice cannot be earlier than the end of the fixed term.

A fixed-term tenancy agreement that doesn’t require the tenant to move out at the end of the term will continue as a month-to-month tenancy under the same tenancy agreement if the tenant doesn’t give notice to end the tenancy.

Leaving Before the End of a Fixed Term

A fixed-term tenancy cannot be ended earlier than the date fixed except in three circumstances: 

  • both parties agree in writing using a  Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy (PDF, 1.6MB) -- both parties need to sign the document and keep a copy  
  • there are special circumstances such as the tenant is fleeing family violence or the tenant has been assessed as requiring long-term care or has been accepted into a long-term care facility
  • as ordered by an arbitrator. 

Learn more about ending a fixed-term tenancy for family violence or long-term care.

If a tenant ends a fixed-term tenancy early  in other circumstances, the tenant may have to reimburse the landlord for costs of re-renting the unit – like advertising or lost rent. The landlord must do their best to limit these costs by trying to rent the unit as soon as possible. Sometimes a fixed-tenancy agreement includes a “liquidated damages” term that requires the tenant to pay to end the tenancy early.

A tenant may ask the landlord for written permission to sublet or assign the tenancy agreement to someone else.

Move Out Date

The tenant must move out by 1 p.m. on the effective date of the notice – the last day of the tenancy. This means the unit must be cleaned and all keys given to the landlord by then, unless the landlord agrees in writing to a later time.

A tenant who doesn’t move out on the effective date of a Notice to End Tenancy is called an overholding tenant. In these situations, the landlord may apply for an Order of Possession to end the tenancy and money to cover expenses – like accommodation or storage costs for an incoming tenant.

Landlord’s Breach of a Material Term

A tenancy agreement may be breached when someone goes against one of its terms. Material terms are considered so important that even the smallest breach gives the other party the right to end the tenancy. For example, a landlord refuses to make repairs or provide essential services such as heat, electricity or water.

If a landlord has breached a material term of the tenancy agreement, the tenant may be able to end the tenancy without giving the full months’ notice required to end a month-to-month tenancy.

Before ending a tenancy for breach of a material term, a tenant must provide a “breach letter” to the landlord that states:

  • What the problem is and why it’s a breach of a material term of the tenancy agreement
  • The reasonable deadline that the problem must be fixed by
  • If the problem isn’t fixed by the deadline, the tenant will end the tenancy

If the landlord has broken a material term and refuses to correct the problem within a reasonable period of time after receiving the “breach letter,” then the tenant can give the landlord written notice to end the tenancy and may apply for dispute resolution claiming compensation from the landlord. The tenant must be prepared to show evidence that supports their reasons for ending the tenancy.

Frustrated Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is frustrated when an unexpected event beyond anyone’s reasonable control occurs making it impossible to meet the original terms of a tenancy agreement, or the terms can only be met in a significantly different manner than what was intended. A tenancy agreement isn’t frustrated if the tenant or the landlord has been negligent and caused the problem.

For example, the tenancy agreement would end if an unexpected disaster damages the rental unit so that it cannot be occupied for an extended time period of time. Notice to end the tenancy is not required.

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: February 9, 2017.