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Landlord pulled out a week before moving in - facing homelessness as result

Started by bobsmith, October 12, 2023, 04:22:40 PM

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Not sure if you guys are aware but there's a major problem with accommodation in London. I've lived there 20 years but never had as many problems as I have recently.

My current place is no longer available (rent increased by £500!), so I have been searching for a place to live - in London it's not that simple. You could search for years and find nothing. New studio flats come on the market rarely and then fly off the shelf as they get loads of applicants. It's not first come first served- it's fairly random, they pick & choose who they want, and often it's not done by price / offer. There's a major shortage of accommodation so landlords/agents are overwhelmed with applicants and applicants find a terrible shortage of anything on the market.

After months of searching I was accepted for a studio flat- it's over my budget but at this point I had no choice as risking homelessness if I don't take it. It's £1500pcm for a 17m2 studio with patio.

My offer was accepted in writing, I paid the holding deposit. Agent said my holding deposit is non-refundable if I don't pass their referencing. I'm aware that this is illegal, but given the alternative was homelessness & job loss, I had to take it. There are many agents who don't seem to be aware of the law or who seem to circumvent it. It's a nightmare. Fortunately I passed referencing & am due to move in next week.

Sigh of relief.

However, after a long time waiting for their referencing / process to go through, just as I was about to receive the contract to sign, I received a call from the agent's colleague today to say landlord changed his mind- he wants higher rent (even though it was previously accepted in writing & I paid the holding deposit). The agent I was talking to is conveniently suddenly ill & no longer available to speak. I suspect the agent who told me it was £1500, got the price wrong & hadn't done his job properly or spoken to the landlord. Either that or prices are rising so fast they increased it before I signed.

I now have a few days left to find another place- having only found one in months of searching, it seems unlikely.

This could now potentially make me homeless.

Are there no laws to protect people from things like this? I guess not since the contract wasn't signed. The holding deposit seems to be only one-way (protects the landlord from tenant changing their mind but doesn't protect tenant from landlord / agent changing mind). It's a mess out there...


A Holding Deposit like you describe seems legal. I know it's not your focus now, but I usually put down if the Tenant pulls out for any reason or fails to pass referencing, then it can be retained.

Obviously this didn't happen here. The Landlord pulled-out... or changed the deal... so you'll have the Holding Deposit back, right? That's how I would word it, too. If the Landlord is the one who decides not to go ahead then then it's immediately refundable.

Rather than being homeless... why don't you give yourself some small amount of breathing room by taking on the larger rent (albeit under protest) and taking the property - at least you've passed referencing here. It might hurt, a lot, and - I agree you shouldn't have to - but isn't it best to have a home and give yourself time to re-assess?

You never know, the Agent could mishandle the Security Deposit (if they're inept) and you might be in for a big future payday.


Be aware...

Your current place might not be available. The rent may have gone up.

That doesn't mean you have to be physically out of there by a deadline someone has given you. Tenants obviously have rights and protection from illegal eviction etc.. The downside to this is if you served notice on them for any reason. Then you've kinda made your bed. But think it through - and act quickly if you decide to cave (with your eyes open) for the new place, as they'll be showing people around already and you know it'll go straight away.


I am still getting my head around £1500 for such a small studio. Mine are around half as big again, with good sized private gardens, £600pcm. Lovely setting. That's London for you.

Maybe I am too soft, but I could not do that to someone who had passed the referencing and was so close to moving in, it would serve them right if they get a lousy tenant in your place.

Do not stand for any nonsense if they try it on over the holding deposit. Could you consider lodgings/houseshare while you continue to look?


Thanks for the replies. I'm already a lodger in my current place. It took MONTHS to find it and even then had to push and push and beg and beg just to be allowed to pay rent & move in. Finding somewhere to live in London could easily be a full time job, taking up years of your life. It was a temporary place to stay in while I continue my endless search for a studio flat. I appreciate some landlords here say they couldn't do it to a tenant, but you're in the minority unfortunately- vast minority in London. Especially with agents who are it seems immune to guilt. The landlord of this place knows it's literally the only place available and so can charge whatever he likes- people are desperate not to be on the street.

The current place: agent put up rent by £500, and main tenant can't afford it so is moving out- hence I lose my room. It's not easy even to find a room in London on a monthly basis. I can't sign a 12 month contract on a room. I'm looking for a studio flat. I'm too old for this nonsense. I have a respectable full time job and shouldn't have to be constantly facing homelessness every few months. London is broken. It never used to be like this. I should never have sold my house.

I've moved more times than I can count. Usually tenants / owners are passing on a problem that is insurmountable. My current place is the first place I've had that is habitable.

This whole situation ongoing for years is nuts.

FYI: I'm surprised that the holding deposit can be kept if someone fails referencing- was pretty sure that was now illegal as of new rules. The idea was that the landlord is turning down the tenant, and can choose to rent it to them regardless of references, thus if he chooses not to, must return the deposit. That's what I read anyway.


Quote from: Hippogriff on October 12, 2023, 05:09:09 PMI usually put down if the Tenant pulls out for any reason or fails to pass referencing, then it can be retained.

What you're doing here is illegal, I believe. Likely you can get away with it as tenants are strapped for time & money so can't afford to take you to court, but just saying- be aware that this is illegal. You must return the holding deposit if you choose not to rent it to the tenant due to them failing your referencing process, provided they told the truth of their situation.



Quote from: bobsmith on October 12, 2023, 04:22:40 PMAre there no laws to protect people from things like this?

Well, there you go then... the law is almost entirely on the side of the Tenant, even if they knowingly mess us poor Landlords about. Not only do we have to pay for 'your' soon-to-be failed referencing, you can also deliberately submit yourselves for a property that requires referencing, fully knowing someone else pays and you'll fail, and then be able to walk away with impunity.  ;)

I guess it goes both ways if you're objective.

Anyway, the bit that resonated with me was - "I should never have sold my house." - it seems you really have made your own bed here. I don't get it. Have you actually ever considered something drastic like relocation to another part of the country - as it seems like you're in a never-ending cycle here... I'd thought Covid made all this better, somewhat - as many people found they could work out in the Home Counties just fine - but clearly not; it's still a pressure-cooker.


Quote from: bobsmith on October 12, 2023, 10:50:02 PMLikely you can get away with it as tenants are strapped for time & money so can't afford to take you to court

What is written and what is done can be entirely different things - the situation has never once arisen for me up here (Sheffield, Barnsley) and even asking for a Holding Deposit is rare. I cannot remember the last time both myself and prospective Tenant agreed one was needed, but I think it was 2019 and the amount would've been for £150. It's much more about testing the good faith of a Tenant to start with and then feeling as though you can stop viewings... if they can't even come up with the £150 then you have your answer straight off the bat.

My last let was not 2019.

But people up here are seemingly much less mobile nowadays - the majority of my tenancies are now 5+ years. I have one property that has a change of student Tenant(s) each year - but even they are now on their second year.


It may not be legal to keep a holding deposit, but personally I think it is morally justifiable in some cases. The landlord has taken the place off the market, other applicants will have gone looking elsewhere. I know it's rare,but there are some wierdos who enjoy wasting other folk's time just for the fun of it. Also, knowing a deposit will not be returned might just jog the memory about those outstanding CCJs.

I don't understand how average working people can afford to live in London any more.I spent one year back in the day,with accomodation provided with the job. I nearly stayed there, and although rents were higher than Brum they were within my modest means. Unless there are very strong personal reasons keeping you in London, maybe this is a watershed, time to stop beating your head against a brick wall?       


heavykarma - I think it depends where in London - for example Goodmayes (on Elizabeth line) has one studio at 1,250 and a 1 bed flat at 1,275 - Now if you want to live there is another question.