When you sign a new lease it will be for a fixed period - the average is 12 months. What happens if you need to move out early and end your tenancy?
Fixed term contracts
If you have an AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the most common tenancy contract type for private tenants since 1998), the fixed term part of your contract will normally last for 6 months, but could be as long as 3 years.
If your contract has a fixed term longer than 6 months it will normally have a break clause, which allows you to give notice (usually 2 months), during the fixed term of your tenancy. Be aware though that there may be conditions attached. Check your contract carefully. It's possible that the landlord may try to show that a condition has not been met, which would make the break clause ineffective.
You should try to stay on good terms with your landlord, as you might be able to negotiate a mutual agreement to end the contract early, known as 'surrender'. You never know, this may actually suit the landlord, so it's worth a try. Otherwise, you may be liable for the rent during the rest of the fixed term, even after you've left.
Your contract may allow you to assign the tenancy to another tenant, but be careful, because the landlord may require you to act as a guarantor for the new tenant's rent payments.
If you're living as a lodger in someone's home, things are much less formally set out. In this case you should be able to discuss your need to leave with your landlord and come to a mutual arrangement. In the end though you have fewer rights in this situation and the landlord will usually have the final say in matters of dispute as you're living in their home.
Even if you're coming to the end of a contract period you should still give written notice. This can be a simple letter to the landlord stating that you wish to move out on a certain date (usually at least a month ahead of time). The landlord should then get in touch to discuss the arrangements and the return of your deposit.
Getting a replacement tenant
You may be able to agree with the landlord that you'll find a replacement flatmate. This way you'll no longer be liable for the rent. Many rooms are advertised on SpareRoom by previous flatmates looking for a replacement so that they can move out. The landlord (and other flatmates) will want to be able to vet the new tenant and you should ensure that they're given their own tenancy agreement so that you're no longer responsible for the rent.
You can place a room offered ad on SpareRoom in under 3 minutes, and it's free.