Question from a Tenant

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    Question from a Tenant

    Hello,

    I've got an 18-month AST which is joint & several with two others. It began in autumn 2017. I now need to leave the property due to exceptional circs (moving to the other side of the world for family reasons) and there are two clauses in the tenancy agreement which relate to this. The first pertains to reassignment. This states "the tenant promises the landlord not to assign the remainder of the tenancy without the landlord's formal written consent, not to be unreasonably withheld". The second relates to termination of the contract (with two months' notice after 12 months). Given that I am the only one of the three leaving I was under the impression this would be a reassignment situation.

    I wish to move in mid June, and informed the landlord of this at the beginning of May. After initially refusing, she agreed that we could either reassign or that all three could surrender the tenancy and there would be a new agreement for a new person moving in with a 7-month break clause, so until January rather than September (and I would be responsible for finding this new person in either instance). Both housemates expressed flexibility, the landlord wanted a new tenancy, so I agreed to this. Two weeks later one housemate said that she'd be starting a new job in September and wanted to maintain flexibility, so could we please go for reassignment instead? The landlord then took a week to respond to this, and could I just comply with the original break clause of September because it would be "easier for everyone". She also said if I continued to wish to leave I'd be responsible for her solicitors' costs of up to £600 to draw up the new tenancy agreement, though it was unclear whether not this work had already been carried out, and a new agreement would not be needed in the case of reassignment, surely? The contract states that I'm responsible for administration costs of preparation and completion of any documentation in relation to any renewal or extension of the agreement, but not in the case of me leaving.

    My questions are thus:
    -is the landlord unreasonably refusing consent? I'm moving to the other side of the world and have a number of prospective tenants who would fulfil the requirements who wish to view the property.
    -do I have to pay her solicitors' costs? she's stated this includes the cost of her advice - I don't actually object to paying for a new contract if it was about £200, which I would consider normal. However, I don't feel I should be paying for the cost of the advice she's receiving as well. £600 to me seems quite high, and we don't even need a new contract.
    -does anyone have experience of reassignment? How complicated/costly is it?
    -I thought the break clause applied to the whole contract, including that of my housemates - it's a joint and several contract, so surely one person cannot just leave without terminating the whole thing unless that's a reassignment situation?

    Sorry for the lengthy post - any and all advice greatly appreciated! Citizens' Advice were beyond useless and I've got a trainee solicitor friend advising but I'd really like a second opinion from people with experience before I go writing cheques that may just negate the point of challenging the landlord at all.

    #2
    That’s a long post to read.
    If you’re moving to the other side of the world then realistically the landlord hasn’t got a chance in “stopping” you. I’ve learned through this work, as a manager, if you make people work their notice period when they’ve been offered another job but need to start earlier then all they do is leave early anyways.

    I’m a landlord but if I was you and you’re moving to the other side of the world then what are worried about; just go when you need to - what’s he going to do?!

    Comment


      #3
      I’m only going for four months, so I guess I’d like a credit rating when I get back, really. But I’m giving up my job etc - and we’re in the interview stage for my replacement so if I’m going to be bound to stay I’ll have to decide pretty quickly.

      Comment


        #4
        Neither you nor landlord seem to know what you are doing.

        Very briefly -- if you leave, your co-tenants are responsible for your rent. You cannot do anything to the tenancy agreement without the consent of BOTH your co-tenants and the landlord. It is not clear whether you have a break clause, but if you do it cannot be exercised by you alone. If you do a runner L can and probably will sue you and co-tenants for any rent shortfall. You can take a lodger (with permission of your mates) and there is not that much landlord can do about that -- but YOU (and flatmates) remain responsible for the rent and recovery from lodger.

        Why did you sign an 18 month agreement with random other people? Maybe you were too bored to realise that contracts are serious things (or they don't teach basic principles of operating in a legislative framework at school these days).

        Comment


          #5
          Hello! Yes, I know that they're responsible for the rent, however, they've both consented to me finding a new person - it's the landlord who's holding everything up for no apparent reason. We have a break clause but as you state it applies to the whole tenancy rather than individuals - the landlord is arguing that it doesn't, while apparently also having paid for expensive legal advice (I'm given to thinking she's either being deliberately obtuse or just doesn't understand). In terms of underletting, that's prohibited. I don't know if a lodger would come under that category?

          It's not the 18-month contract with randoms that's the issue (we're actually friends), it's that my circumstances have drastically changed - grandparent dying, parents divorcing - and there is a clause for reassignment in the tenancy, apparently the landlord is obliged to not unreasonably withhold consent, and so I don't understand why she won't agree to it as it will not be of any cost to her.

          Comment


            #6
            Reassigning a tenancy agreement is very difficult to get right.
            It's much simpler to end the current tenancy and start a new one with the two existing and one new tenant.

            That also requires a fair bit of work.

            On a practical level, the landlord can be as slow or as unreasonable as they want.
            Bluntly, you have an issue and they don't - at this point.
            If you just move out, your friends are liable for the rent.

            So I'd start from the basis that you want to change something and your landlord doesn't and consider that you may have to compensate them to get them to co-operate.
            That's entirely unfair, I appreciate.
            When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
            Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

            Comment


              #7
              OP this is what I would do if I were you: It is really not feasible for L to do that much about a joint tenant substituting a different party. On the other hand skipping the country or not paying rent will not end well.

              So: Get a signed bit of paper from your ****friends*** (if that is what they are) to say that they are happy for you to substitute a lodger suitable to them so long as rent is paid. Get a lodger (the lodger will have few rights and will have to leave if your mates -- or you -- tell them to.

              Make sure landlord gets full rent (from the totality of you) each month. Then leave.

              If for whatever reason lodger does not pay up, or "mates" decide they don't want that lodger -- then you will owe rent.

              Also agree with your mates in writing that at the 12 month point you will all activate the break clause, and that you will ALL leave when the break clause says you can.

              Forget all fancy assignments.

              Comment


                #8
                You alone cannot activate 12 month break clause, all would have to agree.
                What is the wording of this 'break clause'?
                LL is not being un-reasonsonble, you signed a Contract for 18 months without considering a change to your circumstances. Ultimately, YOU are resp for Your Rent (flatmates can sue you for your share)

                Comment

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