How do I go about moving out if landlady moved abroad and her whereabouts are unclear, her UK postal address is no longer valid, and the only way of reaching her is an email address -- but she doesn't respond there either?
My understanding is, as we can't reach her and she didn't provide us with an updated UK address, that she already is in breach with the law. On top of that, I don't think our deposit has ever been put into any of the approved schemes either (another breach of the law).
So, aside from the deposit repayment, how do we move out in such a situation without getting ourselves into legal trouble? Just stop paying rent, vacate the property (and get someone in to witness that we left)? Who's going to pay the utility bills after that date? It's getting colder and it's quite possible that pipes freeze and break if heating is switched off entirely. What to do with the keys?
She's a private landlady, who used to live here herself (we still receive letters addressed to her; 5 years on!). Then she went for a voluntary year to some developing country and later to the Middle-East. We haven't seen her or spoken to her in about 2 1/2 years at least. Any help is much appreciated.
Main question is really: How to move out under these circumstances without breaching laws/contracts (speaking of which: it's a AST-type contract, which was never extended formally, so probably a monthly rolling contract now).
The deposit and some bills (repair of boiler etc) are secondary. That may well have to go through difficult legal channels after we moved.
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
May I ask roughly when the tenancy began please? Do you still pay rent?
It began a bit more than 5 years ago, and we have since been paying by standing order every month, no exceptions. I'm not intending to stop paying before we actually vacate the property.
May I ask the date each month rent is payable and the date you would ideally like to move out? Presumably the original fixed term of the tenancy has expired?
The original term has indeed expired (12 months). We pay around the 4th each month (varies, if the date is weekend or bank holidays, obviously)
Oh, and we want to move out asap. We are already renting another property and are pretty much ready to go.
Thanks. The position is that the landlord must provide an address for service otherwise they cannot legally demand rent. it is satisfactory to serve notices on the address given to you by the landlord even if this is out of date unless the landlord has notified you of an updated address.
The address was.... here! She used to live in this flat. Initially a friend of hers would deal with issues on her behalf, but she no longer is available to do that.
The law requires that you give one clear months notice in writing which notice can only end the day before rent is payable. Therefore in this case providing you serve notice before the end of the current month you could give notice to leave for 31 January. If posting consider retaining proof of posting from the post office. 1st class postage means that service is deemed 2 days after posting whether the landlord receives it or not.
Consider retaining a copy of the notice together with proof of posting in case of any dispute.
Isn't that pointless if the address I'm sending the notice to is the flat we live in?
You said earlier that without valid UK address she can't demand rent. That's interesting. What keeps us from stopping payments immediately?
It isn't pointless because you are sending the notice to the address you have been given for the service of notices. It is therefore a legal notice - it is not your problem if the landlord does not receive the same because she has forgotten to update the address. The notice is satisfacotr to end the tenancy as above.
In terms of rent - from what you say the landlord has given you an address for service - albeit one that is out of date - and therefore rent is due. However you can submit a formal request for the landlords up to date address under the Landlord and Tenant Act and unless the landlord replies within 21 days they are liable to a fine of up to £5K (from memory).
In addition if the landlord has not protected your deposit you may have a claim for the return of the deposit together with up to £3 times the amount in compensation.
Okay understood. I don't see us ever receiving the deposit (it was indeed not protected, at least we have never received any confirmation of that -- something I wasn't aware of that time). Any claims against her will probably be tricky as she lives in Kuwait apparently.
In terms of how you may wish to proceed... If you want to get your landlord attention you may consider writing to the address serving notice as above and separately serving notice requiring up to date address for service under the Landlord and Tenant Act on the basis that the address you have may be out of date and enclose a covering letter advising that you propose to withold rent pending a response as you are concerned that rent may not be reaching the landlord...
I don't want to get into a legal battle to be honest. It only makes things more complicated and prolongs them. Now, given that I serve notice to our address, effective 31st January, and retain the proof from the post office, how do we actually move out and who pays utility bills after that? We wouldn't even know where to drop the keys...
You can also ask for details of deposit protection. If you do this retain the rent as it may be payable still to the landlord. If the landlord volunteers the address then you have a claim against them however as you say if she lives in Kuwait this may be difficult in practice. Accordingly though I cannot strictly advise this, if you do not care about obtaining a reference or anything of that nature you may consider retaining the rent if you find your deposit has not been protected - you can check online - and then issue proceedings against her for compensation for the unpaid deposit reducing your claim by the witheld rent by way of set off.
It depends on how you wish to proceed but in terms of ending the tenancy this is quite straightforward as above.
Is there anything above I can clarify for you?
I think that was very helpful already. I'll figure out where to check online if our deposit was secured or not. Just one last thing: On the day of moving out, are we still liable for utility bills after that date (we will notify the providers in advance of course), and what do we do with the keys?
Would you like the links for the online check?
If you have them, of course! :) Thank you
There are 4 schemes:http://www.mydeposits.co.uk/tenants/get-started/check-your-deposithttps://www.depositprotection.com/is-my-deposit-protectedhttps://www.thedisputeservice.co.uk/is-my-deposit-registered.htmlhttps://www.capita-tdp.co.uk/
Re utility bills you will need to ask for closing statements and if requested give them the name and address of the landlord such as you have - be it the old address or any new address you ascertain. In the event of any dispute the most important thing is to retain a copy of your notice to quite (as above) and proof of postage as this is the key document in defence of any claims for further liability , be it rent or outgoings as this is the document that formally ends the tenancy and accordingly will defeat any claim from any source in court. Also retain a copy of the tenancy in your files
Is there anything above I can clarify for you any further?
Alright, thanks a lot. That was very helpful indeed. Have a great evening, Joshua