Can I unilaterally enact an AST break clause in a house-share?

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    Can I unilaterally enact an AST break clause in a house-share?



    Hello,




    My current situation:




    I’m on a year-long AST in a flat share with 1 other person. We mostly get along though there have been disagreements and a few unpleasant situations which have affected the friendship. The AST ends in August. As per the AST agreement the break clause can he enacted at anytime within the final 5 months with a month’s notice to the letting agents.




    I’m currently unemployed and the job hunt is taking a lot longer than I anticipated. If I’m still unemployed by May I was going to tell me flatmate that I plan to leave at the end of the tenancy (worst case scenario I can move back in with my parents in my hometown for a while). This would give him 3 months to sort out either a new tenant or a new place (I doubt he’d be able to afford the full rent by himself), which I feel is more than enough time to arrange something.




    However as part of my job search I’ve seriously started looking at jobs outside my current city, and obviously if something comes up elsewhere it will likely involve moving house. In this case I would discuss with my flatmate enacting the break clause. This would likely involve giving my flat mate a month’s notice - not ideal for him. However I’d be willing to offer to pay an extra months rent, so in effect giving him 2 months notice.




    My question is, if he decides to play hard ball and refuses to agree to enacting the break clause, can I just go ahead and enact it on my own? Though I would prefer to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement and end things as smoothly as possible, he can be very petty about things and it’s a possibility. I’ve seen conflicting information online about this, with some sources stating that this cannot be done on a ‘joint tenancy’. However our AST does not mention a ‘joint tenancy’ per se; we co-signed it as ‘the Tenant’, with both of us legally being one person for the purposes of the agreement. The break clause section of the AST states that it can be enacted by ‘the Tenant’ - it does does explicitly state that we both must sign it.




    My worry of course is that I get a great opportunity elsewhere, but my flatmate and/or the letting agents refuse to allow me to enact the break clause, thus meaning I have to choose between turning the job down, or taking it and paying the rent on this place until August. The agents have been pretty good to be fair, though I suspect that, rightly or wrongly, they would side with my flatmate and make me pay till the end of the AST if they can see he’s reluctant. I can cover it with my savings, but I’m not a wealthy person and I’d be annoyed at flushing £2k down the toilet. Hopefully I’m worrying over nothing, but I want to know how I’d stand in a worst case scenario.




    Thanks for your help,

    A. Renter

    #2
    It would depend on the exact wording of your tenancy agreement.
    In most joint agreements the "Tenant" would be both of you, so you can't do anything unilaterally.

    While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, even if you leave at the end of the fixed term, that won't end the tenancy either.
    You would have to give notice (which you should be able to do unilaterally as long as the tenancy is periodic) which should be a minimum of a month ending on the day of the month that the fixed term ends.

    Technically you can't give notice on the first day of the periodic tenancy, so you're actually committed to a further two months.
    Most people don't know that, though, so you might get away with one month.

    This is all subject to what your tenancy says exactly, though - what I've quoted is the most likely scenario.
    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


      #3
      Hi,

      thanks for your reply.

      Yes I thought as much, and as per Shelter website (https://england.shelter.org.uk/legal...reak_clauses#6). I have read through the AST again and yes it does specifically state that 'where more than one person forms The Tenant, then both/all parties are responsible for payments and obligations under this AST.'

      For reference, the specific wording of our break clause is 'The Landlord and Tenant agree that they have the right to terminate the Tenancy after the first 7 month period....[with] the Tenant giving 1 month's notice in writing in line with the rental payment date. When the notice period expires the Agreement shall cease'.

      So in the above 'need to move town' scenario it seems I am very much dependent on the goodwill of my flatmate to agree to enact the break clause (yes I am aware that I have only myself to blame for signing up to a joint AST - at the time of signing I thought I'd be in my then current job for the long-term, which didn't work out - long story). I plan to leave regardless come August (even if I stay in my current town) - I would give notice to the agency that I plan to leave in June/July and would not sign the new contract for 2020-21 (not quite sure I could be liable for anything in that case past the expiry of the current AST). Thus my flatmate will have to decide whether to get new flatmate or move out anyway, and me seeking to leave the house earlier than August merely brings the inevitable forward by a few months. However we all know that logic tends to fly out the window in these sorts of situations.



      A further question - can I sublet my room unilaterally (i.e. move out and advertise my room as a short let)? The AST states subletting is allowed with written permission from the Agent, 'which will not be unreasonably withheld.' It states nothing about all parties forming the Tenant needing to agree to this. Of course, in practical terms it may be of little use given the short amount of time left on the tenancy, and the fact that if things had reached such a low point than my flatmate would likely sabotage any attempt to 'force' a new flatmate on him. I'd really not want to go down this route - just exploring all potential options so I know precisely where I stand.

      Comment


        #4
        I think it more likely the agent/LL would requre you to find an acceptable (to all) replacement.

        Comment


          #5
          I dont think you can sub-let your room unilaterally as you would have to do a room only tenancy which would clash with the existing tenancy for the whole property. You would have 2 tenancies running together on the same space. I guess you could use that as leverage if the other parties are unwilling to even discuss it though.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by DPT57 View Post
            I dont think you can sub-let your room unilaterally
            but you could agree to your co-tenant taking in a lodger.

            Comment


              #7
              Yes, that could work if the co-tenant was willing.

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks for replies.

                Well, I highly doubt he'd be willing to get in a lodger etc. if he knows he can get the full rent paid whilst living on his own. The only leverage I would have in such a situation would be to stop paying the rent and then disappear which is probably a real bad idea.

                Comment

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