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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71146
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am renting a house in Waterbeach from November 2007. For

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I am renting a house in Waterbeach from November 2007. For the first few years I signed 12 month contracts. From 2010 it was just rolling on a monthly basis.
In June this year I started a house purchase process. According my contract I could give a month notice but it had to be from the 1st of a month. Therefore, I asked our landlord (via a property agent) if she could be a bit more flexible and accept a month notice starting from any day of a month. In response she gave me a notice so I had to vacate the house by the end of August.
Unfortunately, because the house purchase took longer, at the end of August I did not have a place to move into with my family. Therefore, I asked my landlord if we could stay longer in this house. She agreed only to another 6 month contract. I did not have other options so I signed this contract. However, before I did so I had obtained a confirmation in writing from the agent (in email) that the landlord has agreed to end this contract earlier if another person is willing to rent the house.
On the 5th of September, immediately after exchanging contracts, I notified the agent that I finally bought the house and I asked them to advertise the house as soon as possible because I am not able to pay both rent and mortgage at the same time.
In response to my request they came to see the house last week. During this visit the agent said the landlord expects us to renovate the house before it is advertised. Among other things, she wants us to paint the walls that were dirty 7 years ago when we moved into the house. Also, she wants us to fix sofas, which were broken 7 years ago when we moved into the house. Normally, this would not be a problem as we took pictures of the state of the house at the beginning of our tenancy and I could easily challenge these expectations as our deposit is protected.
However, my situation is more complex as the landlord expects me to renovate the house "voluntarily" in order to get her agreement for putting the house on the market.
There is another detail but I have no idea if it could help in any way. The inventory schedule they sent us 7 years ago has never been signed by the agent. I added my comments describing the actual state of the house and then I signed it and sent back. I still have a copy which is only signed by myself. I did not receive a new inventory schedule with the new 6 month contract I signed two weeks ago.
So I asked the agent to advertise the house on the 5th of September but they are not doing anything to help find another tenant. They are also not replying to my emails.
Could you please let me know if there is any way to stop this 6 month contract earlier? Can they ignore my emails? Does the fact they confirmed in writing the landlord has agreed to end my contract earlier has any legal impact? Also, will it be possible to claim a refund from the agent for the delay in advertising the property?
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
I presume this is an AST?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Yes, this is AST.

Thats bad news I'm afraid.
When were you due to move in? What is the date upon the ageement?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Originally I planned to move in August but I failed to do so. Therefore, I signed this 6 month contract from the 1st of September. I am getting keys this week so I can vacate the house by the end of September.

However, the agent is not advertising the house despite they confirmed in writing - prior to signing the contract - the landlord has agreed to end my contract earlier.

What was the date upon which you told them in writing that you could not move in?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I sent this email to the agent on the 30 of July:

"Unfortunately our house purchase didn't go well. We were close to completion but just before exchanging contracts our solicitor sent us a letter saying there is asbestos in the house. Therefore, we decided not to proceed further with the purchase. Because of that we have no place to move into. Could you please let me know if we could re-new our tenancy agreement for 25 Way Lane?"

so this was a month before the notice they gave us.

Yes, what I need to know is when you said you would not be able to stay?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

You mean I would not be able to stay for 6 months? I sent them an email on the 5th of September. In response they came to see the house and during that visit they told me the landlord expects me to renovate the house before advertising it.

I am sorry but its bad news although the liability may not be as bad as you think.
I know this isn’t going to be the answer you want to hear, and it’s certainly not what I want to tell you. However, I wish to be completely honest with you, so I feel obligated to not give you false hope.
Unfortunately ASTs are very hard to escape. You pretty much have to show that the property is gutted by fire damage or flooding and so you cannot live in it. Another acceptable reason would be that a person's life is in immediate danger like a gas leak. That is unless, of course, it is actually written into your contract that you can give notice at any time and even then, if you emailed on the 5th September, notice would not begin to run until the 1st October for one month to end on the 1st November.
I'm afraid that things like change of circumstances of the tenant or the fact that the premises is not salubrious is not sufficient.
You could try to negotiate with the landlord. Sometimes they will agree to allow tenants to leave as its in their interests too on occasions.
If that is not possible here then I'm afraid you will be acting unlawfully if you leave early. However the landlord is under a duty to mitigate his loss by seeking a replacement tenant and he will not get forever to achieve that. Realistically, if a landlord is really trying, most properties can be let to another tenant comfortably within a month. You will only be liable up until the time that the landlord is able to replace you which will be nothing like the remaining months due under the contract.
Of course, there is a risk that the landlord will not be able to find a replacement. If so, the Court will ask him to prove that he has looked for a replacement. If he is able to do so to the Court's satisfaction then you would be liable for that period but that is very unlikely.
If you gave him notice on the 5th then he should start looking immediately but probably a court would accept that one to two months is reasonable.
Sorry thats probably not the answer you wanted but it is the position that you have and I have a duty to give you truthful and accurate information even though its not what I want to say.
Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your response. Could you please clarify the following:

* let's assume "a person's life is in immediate danger like a gas leak." - does it mean we can terminate the contract immediately or rather they should fix the problem quickly?

* You wrote "If you gave him notice on the 5th then he should start looking immediately but probably a court would accept that one to two months is reasonable." Do you mean two months are reasonable for finding another tenant or for just advertising the house?

* What shall I expect if I won't pay the October rent?

1 No. It means that if you do leave, although you wil lbe acting unlawfully, they have a duty to mitigate their loss.
2 No. You will be liable for the cost of rent while house sits empty. Readvertising is more complicated. He would have had to do that at some point anyway so he might not get away with claiming that.
3 They will probably deduct from your deposit or sue if thats not adequate.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. Could you please answer my last question?

Could I advertise the house myself now and then re-direct viewers to the Agent?

Yes, you could but you would not be able to clam the cost of doing so from him.
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