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Remus2004, Barrister
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 71031
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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One of my tenants in a basement flat I own sent me an e-mail

Customer Question

One of my tenants in a basement flat I own sent me an e-mail on 21st July to complain of damp in the living room. I went round within a couple of days and found a problem. I immediately contacted a damp proof specialist to investigate and an independent surveyor for his opinion. There visit was on the 29th July but so far have not had their report. Since then I discovered that having had the flat fully damp-proofed 19 years ago the 20 year guarantee is still relevant until November 2015. In the meantime, the tenants whose lease doesn't end until February 2015 want to now leave the flat. I have agreed and said I would return their deposit subject to the terms of the lease. They have now asked me to sign a 'surrender document' releasing them from their contract. This document however is for a periodic tenancy but they hold an assured tenancy agreement. My concern is that their lifestyle may have contributed to the problem i.e condensation caused by drying wet clothes indoors with no ventilation and the recent installation of a condensing tumble dryer in the hallway. Ideally, I would prefer to wait until the Surveyor from the original company gave his opinion as to the possible cause before committing myself too much. Can you please advise?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Remus2004 replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

What would you like to know about this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Should I accept the tenants wish to break their tenancy agreement before knowing the cause of the problem and surveyor's report and is it necessary for me to sign a surrender document?

Expert:  Remus2004 replied 3 years ago.
The practical reality here is that it doesn't matter all that much whether you accept their wishes or not.

Even if you do refuse and they go in breach of the AST, you are under a duty to mitigate your loss by seeking another tenant and you don't get forever to achieve that. Usually Courts will allow a landlord one month or two at the outside. The tenant is only liable until you find another replacement. Therefore, the reality is that whether you accept or not, you would still only get one to two months rent from them.

If the tenant tries to sue you for disrepair, that is a different matter entirely. Then you should vigorously defend this if there is any evidence that this is down to the manner of occupation rather than the condition of the property.

If you decide to release them formally then there should really be a surrender document but that protects the tenant not you so I wouldn't panic too much about that.

Can I clarify anything for you ?