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Hello I am a solicitor with over 15 years experience. I will try to help you with this.
How long is your tenancy for and when did it start?
The first agreement started on 3rd December 2009. I have renewed every year and the current one started on 3rd December 2013 and is for 12 months
I fear that you are not in a good position. You have signed an agreement to stay in the property until December 2013 and therefore will be in breach of contact if you try to break the contract early. I think the landlord would have had trouble enforcing his break clause if he wished to do so.
On the Shelter web site it says that 'Break claues have to apply to both landlords and tenants, so that both parties have the same rights'. Is that not the case?
If you moved out early the starting point for the landlord is that he could claim compensation from you for the lost rent up to December this year. However the landlord has a duty to minimise his losses so if there is another tenant wiling to take the property on and there is no good reason for the landlord not to let them enter into tenancy then the landlord will not be able to claim compensation against you. Ie if you find a suitable new tenant then the landlord will have great difficulty suing you for money. If the agent is genuinely representing the landlord then this is the person you should deal with.
The agents are asking for additional money (on top of the rent for the rest of the year) to even look for a new tenant!
That is why I say that the break clause is invalid. However -although it i sn't a good argument in law- you could say to the Agent that the landlord has this break clause and that therefore the agreement is in reality a 2 month agreement and give him 2 months notice of your departure.
Would that stand up in court? I am thinking of writing to the landlord directly and asking for his descretion to enforce the 2 months!
There are risks associated with this strategy as if the agent is unable to let the property despite 2 month's notice then a claim could be issued against you and then the approach above might come under scrutiny from a ccurt and be found to be lacking. That is no reason not to use it as a negotiating strategy.