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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My partners daughter (Selena) has signed a house sharing contract

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My partners daughter (Selena) has signed a house sharing contract with 3 other girls (Megs, Sophie and Eoufi) from her Uni. 3 of the 4 girls viewed the property. Selena initially did not want the downstairs room and definitely did not want the small room upstairs. Megs did not bother to view the house but had said she would take a single room and photo's of it were sent to her. Eoufi had accepted that if Megs didn’t want the small room, she would have it instead. Sophie didn’t want the downstairs room believing it to be unsafe and also did not want to draw straws at that time because not only did she not want the downstairs room, she didn’t want the small room either. Selena would not have drawn straws under any circumstances.
None of the girls wanted to draw straws to see who had which room, nor were they interested in a rotation idea. They finally reached agreement after Selena agreed to take the room downstairs.
The contract was sent to them several days later and was signed on the basis of that verbal agreement by the girls and by their parents as guarantors. The allocation of rooms is not detailed within the contract but all the girls knew where they were going several days before anyone committed themselves to a financial contract.
Now that Megs has been to the house, she wants to change the agreement and wants straws to be drawn. Selena would not have signed the contract with the landlord on that basis.
Selena is NOT looking to come out of the contract with the landlord. She is looking to keep the agreement with the girls and stay in the room she believed she signed the contract for. If she cannot do that, she has been induced by the other girls into signing a contract involving substantial costs that she would not have signed had the verbal agreement not been reached.
How does she stand for enforcing the verbal agreement between the girls.
Hello, my name is***** am a solicitor on this site and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Have they tried to negotiate in any way to try and keep to the original agreement?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes they have but the other 3 girls will not agree to anything other than drawing straws

A verbal agreement can be just as legally binding as a written one, as long as the parties to it had agreed to its terms and were happy to be bound by them. The issues arise with lack of evidence because it is essentially going to be one person’s word against another’s and if there are 3 parties who now deny that any agreement was reached or say the terms were different, your stepdaughter cannot really prove otherwise unless they admit to it. She has nothing in writing and her word is only as strong as the others’.
Also you have to consider how far you actually wish to take this. Obviously the best thing to do is to try and negotiate with the others and remind them of what the initial agreement was and that legally they should adhere to it. However, they cannot be forced to do so and if they refuse to play by the original rules then she will have no other option but to look at court action to try and move things forward.
This is the next issue – would she be willing to go that far for this? It will cost her money to make the claim, she won’t get many of her costs back as this is a small claims court matter and each party bears its own costs. Also there is no guarantee that she will succeed because as mentioned it is her word against the others’ and if they all deny what she claims was agreed then how would a court determine who is telling the truth – it won’t be easy.
Even if she does win would the relationship between the girls still be the same? Would they be happy to live together knowing they have taken each other through the courts recently? These are all relevant factors to consider.
So there is simply no guaranteed solution to this I’m afraid. The last resort is court, subject to the caveats mentioned above. The best way is through continued negotiation. She may not be looking at exiting the contract but she could threaten that if no resolution is reached and that could potentially place the others in a difficult position if no replacement can be found. Therefore, that could be used as a negotiating tool. Alternatively she could agree to draw straws in the end anyway just to go with the majority – she could be lucky and get the room she initially wanted anyway – that is still a possibility. If she does not then she could still revisit the above options.
I trust this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page). If for any reason you are unhappy with my response or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Ben and thank you for your reply. The girls are not disputing that an agreement had been reached. What they are saying is that because one of the girls did not see the room, even though she had the opportunity to do so before signing and had photos of it, that the agreement was unfair.

In all the discussions before signature, no one wanted Selena's room. Megs was going to have the small room but if she was not happy with it then Eoufi would agree to take it instead.

On that basis, Selena signed

Does that help us

It does but not to a great extent. What I was trying to say is that regardless of what agreement was in place, you can only go as far as the others are willing to. If they will not budge then there is the potential for creating tension and the whole experience could turn out worse than it is. The landlord would not be interested in what this agreement was - it is not between them, it is just between the girls. So you won't be able to say to the landlord that they should not let out certain rooms to certain girls or that some have a guaranteed room in the house. Therefore, this is something which can only really be resolved between the girls and I would say it should be done via further negotiations. Court is not really ideal in the circumstances - they cannot force them to take a specific room, the best she could hope for is some compensation for damages should she be forced not to take up the rental and has suffered losses in the process. Hope this clarifies?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Sorry to come back to you again. Is it reasonable for Selena to insist that the 3 girls who did not want the room downstairs draw just 3 straws for the rooms upstairs thereby leaving Selena's part of the initial agreement with them intact.

The parents of the other 3 have said that if Selena will not adhere to the 4 straws suggestion, that she should leave the property. That would cause considerable financial loss and of course she would have nowhere to live whilst at university unless she replicates the expenses she has already incurred and find another house. That sounds like bullying to me. What remedy would be open to her to force these costs on the other 3?



Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Ben

I haven't had an answer to my last question. I think something has gone wrong so I will repeat.

Is it reasonable for Selena to insist that the three girls who did not want the downstairs room, simply draw 3 straws for the upstairs room thereby leaving Selena's agreement with them intact?

The 3 girls and their parents have already said that if Selena will not comply with their new demands, that she should leave the house. That sounds like bullying to me. If she were to do so she would incur considerable costs because she would have to replicate the costs she has already incurred when finding a new home. What remedies would be available to her to force the other 3 to meet those costs?

Yes that is certainly an option, she may indeed propose that. If there is no dispute as to her room then let the others sort out the remaining rooms between themselves. If she is forced out of the property in breach of the original verbal agreement then she could pursue them for losses as a result of breach of contract. That is when the small claims court route becomes an option as per my initial advice.
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