Know Your Rights: Moving out of your accommodation earlier than planned
Need to move out before your lease is up? Know your rights as a tenant. Source: Shutterstock

Can I apply for work as an international student in my host country? What are my wage rights? Am I allowed to join protests and class walkouts? If I had a run-in with the authorities, what should I do? To help you understand the extent and limitations of your rights as a student abroad, Study International will provide the answers to all these burning questions and more through our “Know Your Rights” article series. Have a question you want to be answered? Email us at

For many international students, living in student housing is their first experience living away from home, out of their parents’ house.

Many students are unfamiliar with their rights as a tenant. It can be an overwhelming and uncertain time with leases to sign, utilities to pay, housemates to deal with and expenses to manage.

Sometimes, you may find yourself stuck in a housing situation that isn’t right for you, whether it’s because of poor location, bad management, difficulty getting along with housemates or whatever else.

If you find yourself in an unpleasant situation before your lease is up, you may be asking yourself, where do I go from here and what do I do?

While some students think they just have to stay put and ride out the storm until the lease is over, this might not actually be the case.

Know your rights as a student living in student accommodation, and what you can do if you’re unhappy and wish to move out ASAP.

Check your lease or tenancy agreement

Carefully read through your lease agreement before signing so you know your rights as a tenant. Source: Shutterstock

Lease regulations and requirements vary from country to country, and it also depends if you’re staying in private accommodation or on campus.

However, most leases should have a clause on what happens if you decide to move out before the lease period is over.

This is usually called a cancellation clause or a break lease clause. For some agreements, you may have to forfeit the housing/security deposit you put down when you first moved in (usually one or two months’ rent).

The first thing you need to do is read and check your lease agreement and find out what it says about moving out before the lease period.

Also, always make sure there is this clause in your lease or contract before signing.

Contact your landlord or university

Once you’ve decided to move out, call your landlord as soon as possible. If your reason for moving out is because they haven’t delivered on certain things, discuss this matter with them.

You can usually cancel your lease contract with no issues if your landlord did not deliver on what they promised in the original agreement.

This could be issues like major repairs being neglected, poor security, undisclosed hidden costs, and so on.

In this case, it’s a breach of agreement on their part and they can’t hold you responsible for wanting to get out of it.

If it’s a different reason, still make sure to contact them so you can let them know the situation as soon as possible, and you can know what your options are.

If you’re living on campus, it may be harder. Many university dorm agreements require students to sign a contract for a whole year and will not allow cancellation as they have problems finding a replacement in the middle of term.

However, explain your situation to them and they might be willing to let you break your agreement earlier.

Look for a new tenant

Getting a new tenant to take over your lease may make things easier. Source: Shutterstock

An easy way to leave your student accommodation early is to find someone to take over your room or apartment.

However, it is generally discouraged to sub-lease your housing without your landlord knowing, as doing so can be a breach of the agreement, so make sure you disclose it to them.

Most landlords or universities should allow you to leave early if you’ve already found someone to take over, as that saves them the trouble of looking for a new tenant.

Give written notice

If your landlord refused to release you from your contract, even if you’ve found someone to take over, it doesn’t mean they can hold you captive.

As long as you give written notice, you are covered by most Consumer Protection Acts, and cannot be forced to continue living there.

Of course, it depends on the country you’re living in, so do some research on this if you’re landlord is being difficult.

The same goes for university housing, they cannot force you to live there against your will, but you may still have to bear the rent for the length of the contract.

Failure to do so may result in debt collectors coming after you or your guarantor, so make sure you come to an agreement before you leave.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Know Your Rights: What to do if your student accommodation is unsafe

Quiz: How well do you know these terms for student housing in the UK?