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Moving out of AST early, but landlord is unreasonable

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« on: March 28, 2021, 12:15:20 AM »

Hi all,
Iíve just joined to ask your help on a matter that is driving me crazy.

I have recently bought my first flat, and I need to move out from the flat I used to rent through an estate agency.
My contract is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract (housing act 1996), with no break clause. The end of the contract is 6+ months from now. The flat is in London.

Last time I asked the agent 'what happens if I need to leave early', they told me that I would be charged 10% of the rent till the end of the contract to cover the administration fees.
But when I gave them notice of my intent to leave early, they gave me the (additional) landlords terms to accept the end of the tenancy. The terms include:
- I will be paying rent in full and all bills until a new tenancy is agreed.
- The flat will be managed and advertised by the same agency.
- I also pay the 10% of the rent for the remaining of the contract (as stated in the contract)

I though it was reasonable to accept these, as it was my fault for leaving early, and I should not cause any damage to the Landlord or the agency.

My current situation is Iíve moved in my new flat one month ago. The previous flat is empty and cleaned since then. The flat is on the market for 2 months now but it barely gets a viewing or 2 per week.

The problem is that my pre-covid rent is too high now, and nobody want to move in. The rents have gone down, and there is not much interest from potential renters at this time, due to unemployment, Covid, Brexit, uncertainty etc.

I have notified them of the current market situation and my concerns of not being able to find a new tenant any soon. I also provided evidence of other similar flats of better value in the same area, that are let for the same price or lower. On top of that I urged them to lower the rent price, offering to cover the difference until the end of the contract, so the landlord would suffer no damage at all. Our last communication was that the landlord is not available and we'll hear from them in two weeks or so.

I am feeling that I am being a sucker, and I'm running out of patience and savings. I just cannot pay rent + mortgage + 2 council tax and bills for two flats for 6 months. And I don't think it's fair either: The money the landlord would lose by renting it 50 pounds lower for the next 12 months, is significantly less than the money I pay each 1 or 2 weeks that the flat is empty but on my name.

I have asked for advise from Citizens advice and they told me I have no way out of this situation.

What should I do from here, given the fact I have a really bad contract and no negotiating power?
What is the worst they can do if I insist giving them the keys and stop paying?

Any advise, either legal or negotiation-related, is welcome. Please help me, Iíve lost my sleep over this!



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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2021, 08:59:43 AM »

You have read the situation very well... but you don't have a "really bad contract", rather you have a pretty standard contract... tho' I've not heard of the 10% premium before. If a Tenant decides to leave a property during the fixed term of the AST... then that's no differently - really - to them continuing to live there... the rent is still due, because you entered into that agreement with open-eyes... you agreed to rent the property for the fixed term - that gave you and the Landlord (both) certainty... which you must have both wanted at some time.

One party cannot usually just unilaterally break an agreement and walk away without impact. That's why we have agreements.

You could have played this so much better... I must say that your seeming eagerness to get your own flat might have been your undoing... for me I would have tried to time things a lot better, or even delay Completion (every month counts for you). Now you have gone into this situation - but with your eyes open (your comment - "it was my fault for leaving early" - is spot on the money, you are at least a reasonable person - then. You were given all of the information and you still decided to go that way... now, some time later you appear to have changed your mind because things haven't worked-out the way you wanted / expected. I get that, entirely, but it doesn't mean the Landlord should lose-out now if you were accepting of the fact the Landlord shouldn't lose-out then.

Nothing has changed from the Landlord's perspective... they have the rent coming in. They are advertising it. Times are challenging, but that doesn't mean if you had stayed there they would knocking on your door offering you a lower rent... so why should they offer someone else a lower rent now... best to wait until the time when they're forced to do that, through experiencing reality. There is no motivation for the Landlord to do what you would like them to do. I think you have attempted pretty much what you can - I like the fact you offered to cover the difference in a lower rent - you have done what you can - but there is still no motivation (beyond normally decency and morals) for someone to do that... it's just setting precedence for the incoming Tenant to have a lower rent (which the Landlord might not realise is the reality yet... and it might not be in 6 months time)... plus there's two parties to deal with instead of one... as I say, it's all about motivation.

All I can think of is sweetening that deal...

So... if your outgoing for this place you don't live in is £1,300 (rent plus outgoings). And the Landlord is advertising it for £1,000. You suggest it's advertised for £900 and you'll pay them £200 or £300 - not the £100 difference... the Landlord is significantly up for 6 months (£1,200), and you are significantly up too (£1,000)... plus the Landlord doesn't have the Insurance headache of an empty property and has put this sorry situation behind them. However... even if that deal was jumped on... it does not mean the property will be let, at all or quickly.

Other people may come along with other thoughts.
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2021, 10:08:08 AM »

Hippogriff's idea is worth trying for sure.However,do not for one minute lose sight of the fact that this is a problem totally of your own making.Your landlord does not have to bend over backwards to get you out of the hole you have dug for yourself.He would be within his rights to make no effort at all to relet.How is he being unreasonable? Why did you go househunting  so long before the contract ended? Tenants like you give landlords many sleepless nights I can assure you. You don't have a bad contract,this is totally standard.
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2021, 02:11:38 PM »

heavykarma, please spare me the criticism, I've done that myself already  ;D. I wasn't planning to buy and leave the AST early, like the irresponsible tenant you seem to assume I am. I was renting with them already and I renewed the contract. But there was the SDLT holiday, I found a good deal and pulled the trigger. People eventually have to move early, because their situation has changed. These things can happen.
Yes, I understand that it is my fault for leaving early and I understand that the Landlord cant suffer damages. I think I was clear about it and I suggested a solution for this.

I am not responsible for the current market though. If the flat remains empty until the end of my contract, the Landlord would be in the same position in six months, they will still have to lower their rent in a realistic price. The only thing that's going to be different is I'll fully fund their 'optimism' and wishful thinking strategy for the next 6 months. If they drop the rent £100, they will "lose" £600 from the next 12 month AST (I'll cover the damages for the 6 first months). I am losing that amount of money every two weeks. They are not even losing £600 actually, this is where the market is, and that's what they will suffer anyway when reality eventually hits them in the face, regardless of my early break. It's more like they are risking me paying 6 months rent+bills, because they "hope" they might find a desperate soul that will move in with overpriced rent. That's where they are unreasonable and greedy.


Hippogriff, thanks for the suggestion. But there is one part I don't understand: "you are significantly up too (£1,000)", could you please explain what that means and how the number add up? Also I don't understand what do you mean about the "Insurance headache", as the flat is still rented from me, am I missing something?

Now, considering the nuke option, could somebody please explain what would happen if I give them the keys, stop paying and dare them to sue me? What is the worst case for me in that scenario?
« Last Edit: March 28, 2021, 02:56:41 PM by ken.lee »
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2021, 03:37:45 PM »

Do you still have keys and access to the property?
If not, and the landlord is now in control of the property, the tenancy has ended.
So the issue is simply the compensation for ending the tenancy early.

By continuing to charge "rent", the landlord is implying that the tenancy is continuing.

And the 10% fee is a prohibited payment under the tenant's fees act, unless the agent is incurring that cost as a consequence of the early surrender.
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« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2021, 05:01:42 PM »

The landlord does not have to accept the return of the keys.If the tenant does as he suggests,and just stops paying,the landlord could take him to the Small Claims Court.If the debt is proven and not paid,the tenant could get a CCJ which could greatly affect his credit rating. The landlord may of course feel it is not worth his trouble to pursue the matter,so if the tenant can perform the ethical and mental  gymnastics required to tell himself that it serves the unreasonable landlord right,then it could be worth taking the risk.     
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2021, 05:37:49 PM »

@JPKEATS, I still have keys and access, and I'm still paying rent + bills as if I'm renting there. The tenancy is continuing. Is there a problem with their insurance because the flat is not actually occupied?

About that 10 % clause, it says:
"In the event that a landlord agrees by a way of written consent for the tenant to vacate the property prior to the tenancy end, the said tenant will be liable to reibmburse the Landlords cost of setting the replacement tenancy at 10% of the remaining contract term on a pro rata basis"

Should I add that the agency refused to share a copy of the contract so I could study it carefully before signing it. I could only review it in the office, and as explained before, when I asked them what happens in case I leave early, they told me about the 10% reimburment but failed to mention anything about me paying rent and bills. Even when I did a viewing for a flat sold by the same agency (so they knew), they never mentioned anything about it.

I was either stupid or misled to think this implied a break clause. If I knew they could force me to pay rent and bills, I would obviously have thought twice before buying that flat and leaving so early, during a world wide pandemic and recession. I could cover the cost of 10% of the remaining contract, but I didn't understand this would be ON TOP of full rent and bills.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2021, 06:20:09 PM by ken.lee »
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2021, 06:54:42 PM »

People, these days, often grab onto the "I was misled" or "I didn't understand what I was doing" angle. There sure are some shady practices out there. Your contract doesn't appear to be jumping out as one of them. A Landlord signed a fixed term arrangement with you in good faith. You would be very upset if the Landlord was able to kick you out mid-term just because they felt like it or their circumstances changed (in a way completely unrelated to you). You should decide where you stand from a moral perspective. Then jump whichever way you choose. In five years you won't even think about this, I promise you that. Whatever happens it'll be over soon. Read, carefully, what you sign your name to - don't make assumptions - it's often that simple.
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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2021, 07:29:20 PM »

It's a relatively standard clause in most Insurance policies... and therefore ASTs... that a property shouldn't be left unoccupied for any period of more than 30 days at a time.

Sums...

Assuming your rent was £1,000 per calendar month.
Assuming you pay something like £300 in Council Tax and various other outgoings.
Your total outlay per month just for the property is £1,300 per month.

The property is currently marketed at the same rent you are paying - so £1,000 per month.
But you are asserting this is too high. You are asserting market conditions have changed.
You're suggesting the Landlord drops the rent to attract a Tenant... because... well, why not?

You've reasonably offering to make up the difference. An easy example would be the Landlord drops the rent to £900 per month (not that they should have to) and you'd pay them £100 per month.
Your reasoning is that you escape the overwhelming majority of your obligations if this works... no more £1,000 rent and no more other outgoings of £300... you pay £100 and the Landlord still gets their £1,000.

This doesn't feel like it would fly. It might. But I wouldn't let you get away with it. It makes me feel as if you're a chancer and someone who doesn't live by their obligations - contractual and moral.
But the suggestion was that you sweeten the pot... you're obviously assuming is some kind of money-grabbing parasite and they have no interest in your benefit (half of that is probably true).
So... if you assume your total outgoings now are £1,300... and if the Landlord could try to re-let the property for £900... then you're benefiting by £1,300... the Landlord losing by £100.
If you paid £100 to the Landlord you're benefiting by £1,200 and the Landlord is in a status quo position.
Not very appealing for the Landlord.

But if you suggested, the Landlord could drop the rent to £900 in an effort to release you from your obligations and you paid more than the £100... maybe £300... or £500? Then the Landlord wins clearly.

But you still win. You're avoiding the £1,300 expenditure, but replacing it with £300... or £500... therefore... a) the Landlord wins, b) you win, c) the new Tenant wins... having a lovely home to live in.

It was only a thought... it all sounds kinda grubby. It would need to be a gentleman's agreement, I'm sure.

Better if you just stick to what you should. Pay the Landlord their money. I mean, you do owe it. If the property lets tomorrow, and it could, then you're off the hook.
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« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2021, 09:38:35 PM »

It's a relatively standard clause in most Insurance policies... and therefore ASTs... that a property shouldn't be left unoccupied for any period of more than 30 days at a time.
Then, they should also have some motivation to help finding a new tenant, right?

If you paid £100 to the Landlord you're benefiting by £1,200 and the Landlord is in a status quo position.
Not very appealing for the Landlord.
Why is this not appealing for the landlord if they are not losing money, and they are helping me out in the meantime?


But if you suggested, the Landlord could drop the rent to £900 in an effort to release you from your obligations and you paid more than the £100... maybe £300... or £500? Then the Landlord wins clearly.
I would be happy to pay extra to cover any damages they suffered from me, and make it right. But not just to let them feel they 'won' a game and punish me for leaving early. How exactly do you justify that 300 or 500 per month? Sorry If I got you wrong, but this feels just wrong.
The absolute worse I would consider, would be to pay £100 * 12 months, just to make sure they don't lose money from their next tenancy either. But 500 * the rest of my tenancy? For what?


if the tenant can perform the ethical and mental  gymnastics required to tell himself that it serves the unreasonable landlord right,then it could be worth taking the risk.     
It makes me feel as if you're a chancer and someone who doesn't live by their obligations - contractual and moral.
Tenants like you give landlords many sleepless nights I can assure you.

Too many asumptions, moral lessons and bias, but not too much useful advise or understanding of the context.. If you guys are so interested in morals why don't you try judging me for my actions, what I actually did, not for the options I *consider* of doing after all negotiations fail? The facts are I have (so far)  never skipped or delayed a rent, caused no harm or damage to anybody, I still pay in full my rent, and I gave them plenty of notice to advertise the property. So far I am the one paying for my wrong, and I'm just trying to get out of it without damaging anybody, including myself.

I had another landlord who had to break the tenancy early because they had to sell, and believe me I had a lot more understanding that what I receive now. I helped them to find a new buyer, and left early. Maybe I was wrong helping another person whose circumstances have changed?



« Last Edit: March 28, 2021, 10:03:24 PM by ken.lee »
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« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2021, 10:10:30 PM »

The points have gone "whooosh!" straight over your head. Stick with what Citizens Advice told you... they're correct.
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2021, 12:47:13 AM »

No, Hippogriff,
Thank you very much for your time and helping me understand the landlords perspective. I know you genuinely tried to help

If I just wait for the market to recover, or offer them 500 per month, I will default and get a CCJ anyway. The take-home lesson for me is I should soon quit trying to resolve this in a reasonable and responsible way.

If my AST ended today, the landlord would drop the price and be realistic. Now they don't, because I got them covered. But I am the morally buncrupt!


« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 01:32:24 AM by ken.lee »
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2021, 08:59:16 AM »

Not morally bankrupt... just not living up to the obligations of a contract you entered into, as an adult, with your eyes open. There's too many get-outs for people these days... if you've bought your own home you're obviously not in the lowest levels of society, scrabbling-along the bottom, you must have something going for you - you can form sentences and thoughts quite well (not perfectly) but you get into a sticky situation and then try to pass off any responsibility to others. In my book that's unfair. The Landlord has done nothing wrong. The Landlord shouldn't need to become your Carer. The Landlord shouldn't need to go above-and-beyond in any respect to help out a stranger... because that's what you are... you're nothing to the Landlord, the same way the Landlord is nothing to you.

What you asked for, at the beginning, was negotiation ideas... I put one in front of you that might be tempting to a Landlord (if they're the money-grabbing type you might like to think they are) and would help you too. It struck me as odd (to say the least) that you wouldn't embrace the idea of saving hundreds of Pounds every month... just because you seem to resent the Landlord getting more per month.

That's weird. Why would it bother you? It's not a fight you need to fight... you have one objective - reduce your outgoings.

Lastly... you don't want a CCJ... they're not cool battle scars to carry through life. You want to go through life without accumulating CCJs. Maybe that's a sign of the times these days? People aren't scared of bad debts. But I would go hungry rather than not pay someone something I knew I owed. The Landlord, here, hasn't tried to trick you... they didn't set out from the beginning, rubbing their hands together with glee, thinking here's someone I can take advantage of... you've got it backwards if you think that... the Landlord just wanted you to live in their property for the period of time you asked them to!!!
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 10:30:30 AM by Hippogriff »
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2021, 10:20:47 AM »

Again, assumptions about my financial situation, assumptions about what I think about landlords, and my moral code... I find myself being digitally prosecuted, but I guess that's on me, since I brought the subject about ethics first. Fair enough I guess!

I do get your point about Ďsweetening the potí, donít get me wrong. I might do it regardless of how I feel about it. The fact that I donít feel itís right, doesnít mean I am a chancer. Iím just trying to work out something thatís fair, since this is all about negotiations after all.

Could you please give me a breakdown of the landlord's damages I might have not considered? e.g. insurance premiums, fees to the agency etc.? I'd like to take everything into account.
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