Sign contract without tenancy start date?

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    Sign contract without tenancy start date?

    We put down a holding deposit for a flat on the 24th March. AST, 12 months. The flat was available immediately but the (then) impending lockdown meant we agreed to sign a contract with a provisional tenancy start date. This date was to be reviewed on a weekly basis.

    They assured us the landlord will not sign theirs until we have a firm start date. We have this in writing.

    We haven't signed anything yet because our contract has a start date of 24th April but does not state anywhere that this date is provisional. The letting agent suggested we sign it to reassure landlord that we are committed to renting the property.

    However, the agent has now chased us for the tenancy signature + deposit + first rent payment. We're fine with paying the deposit and first rent payment upfront, but the letting agent previously said we don't need to pay this until a few days before the start date.

    However, are we being unreasonable by not wanting to sign a contract with an incorrect start date? The lockdown situation is unlikely to change by then and, to be cynical, if we've signed something then we're obligated to begin paying.

    The landlord has been accomodating and we don't want to have a negative start to this tenancy, but we physically can't move in until the lockdown is relaxed.

    #2
    You cannot have an agreement for a tenancy without the start date being fixed or ascertainable.

    Comment


      #3
      So would it be fair if we propose to not sign the contract until the lockdown is over, but to reassure landlord we can transfer our deposit to the letting agent to be released upon our request?

      All we want is to not sign a legal contract and give the landlord a large amount of our money until we know we can move in legally and safely. Neither are possible right now.

      The other caveat is that we are now working from home and wouldn't have broadband for at least 3 weeks (if it is a simple home move with broadband, longer if they need to get someone out).

      Comment


        #4
        The holding deposit probably does not mean a lot. In fact I think there is a new rule that it must be returned if there is no contract signed within a specified time. Others no doubt will confirm the position. Anyway, the main point is that either you sign a contract or you do not. There is no in-between.

        Comment


          #5
          Fifteenth day of the period beginning with the day on which the landlord or letting agent receives the holding deposit. But the landlord or the letting agent may agree with the tenant in writing that a different day is to be the deadline for agreement.
          I am not a lawyer, nor am I licensed to provide any regulated advice. None of my posts should be treated as legal or financial advice.

          I do not answer questions through private messages which should be posted publicly on the forum.

          Comment


            #6
            If you sign a contract provided by the landlord or their agent it becomes binding when you sign it (unless it's legally flawed in some other way - which the absence of a start date may cause).
            It doesn't need the landlord or agent to countersign it to become a binding agreement.
            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
              Apologies, when I said 'deposit' I was referring to the tenancy deposit and not the holding deposit.

              I will advise the letting agent that we won't sign anything until lockdown restrictions are relaxed. I gave 2 month's notice to my current landlord, can I 'cancel' this if necessary? The landlord won't volunteer to let us stay because she had viewings prior to lockdown and is still advertising property. We can't rely on her goodwill here.

              *will also mention that she (current landlord) has tried to arrange a face to face viewing without our consent after lockdown measures were put in place

              Comment


                #8
                No, you can't cancel or change your notice.
                If it was valid notice, it's binding.
                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


                  #9
                  There must be advice or rules in place for tenants who served notice prior to the lockdown? Our landlord was pushing us to give 2 months' notice by mid-March but I don't know why (2 months is in letting agreement)

                  I would not put it past my landlord if she insisted we leave even without her finding a new tenant. Guess we'll be sleeping on the street, then?

                  Comment


                    #10
                    There isn't any useful advice anyone could give, other than reach some sort of agreement with your landlord.

                    They can't do viewings and move someone in very easily (if at all).

                    There's nothing to stop you moving in (although if you planned to use a removal company or other people for help, you're out of luck).
                    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


                      #11
                      Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
                      There's nothing to stop you moving in (although if you planned to use a removal company or other people for help, you're out of luck).
                      Surely there must be some removal companies around that have worked out how to keep working and meet the 6ft rule.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Holding deposit is maximum 1 week's rent.

                        You can get broadband immediately by a mobile 'phone network - either a mobile BB router or say a mobile with WiFi hotspot
                        I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by MdeB View Post
                          Surely there must be some removal companies around that have worked out how to keep working and meet the 6ft rule.
                          Easier to furlough staff than take the risk I'd have thought.

                          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


                            #14
                            Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
                            If you sign a contract provided by the landlord or their agent it becomes binding when you sign it (unless it's legally flawed in some other way - which the absence of a start date may cause).
                            It doesn't need the landlord or agent to countersign it to become a binding agreement.
                            It is not quite as straightforward as that.

                            As a contract for the grant of a tenancy for a term of three years or less can be made without writing it has to follow that it can be made with only one party signing. However, the mere fact that one party signs does not create a contract. There has to be some act on the part of the other party to confirm an intention to be bound, such as signing the contract; expressly confirming there is a contract; allowing the tenant into occupation. What you certainly cannot have is a situation where one party is bound when he signs and the other party is not.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
                              However, the mere fact that one party signs does not create a contract. There has to be some act on the part of the other party to confirm an intention to be bound.
                              I agree.
                              Which is why I said that the contract being signed must be provided by the landlord or agent, because that constitutes an offer that can be accepted.
                              A sample contract wouldn't do, but the actual tenancy agreement for a property being supplied to a prospective tenant to sign is both an offer and evidence of the landlord/agents intent.

                              If the prospective tenant signs that agreement and intends to form a contract, provided there's a consideration, you're going to go a long way to argue that contract away.

                              You could succeed, if the email that accompanied the contract said, please don't sign this contract, or it was clearly sent in error - but the idea (not expressed by you but the letting agent) that signing the contract doesn't bind the tenant until the landlord or agent countersign is both wrong and risky for the tenant.
                              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

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