Ambiguous tenancy agreement

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    Ambiguous tenancy agreement

    Hi everyone, I'm new here, I'm having a little debate with my landlord and I just want to act legitimately and within my rights, please please help me clearing some doubts?

    I moved into this room in London on 22nd October 2019, paying my rent on a monthly basis, with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement that I think was drafted ambiguously. On the first page it comes with a section named 'The Term' that doesn't explicitly refer to an expiry date of a fixed term but instead simply says: "For a minimum period of six consecutive months from date 22-10-2019" which in my opinion implies that there is a 6 month fixed term - ending on 21st April 2020. The following section named 'Notice Period' states that 'the tenant is required to inform the landlord two months before vacation of the premises.'

    Well, I very recently decided to move out just before the end of what I assume is the fixed term so I wrote to the Landlord explaining that I'm not going to continue the tenancy after the fixed term but the Landlord says that contractually I have to give him two months notice as that's a clause in the agreement I signed for and he requires that now I continue paying rent.

    My understanding of Assured Shorthold Tenancies is that - as unfair to the Landlord as it sounds - a tenant can leave at the end of the fixed term without giving notice. Considering that my tenancy didn't exactly start as 'periodic' (because of that ' six consecutive months' obligation), if I leave by the 21nd of April I believe I shouldn't have to give 2 or 1 months notice. But he just won't accept this.

    Who is right legally speaking? And if my understanding of things is correct, how do I demonstrate to him that I am acting within my rights?

    Thank you so much for any advice

    #2
    If you are leaving on the last day of the fixed term, ie, 6 months from start of agreement - you don't have to give any notice whatsoever. A bit impolite, but this is fact. The two month clause is non-sense. By law, assuming you are still there after end of fixed term, you would be in a statutory periodic tenancy (rolling monthly tenancy). You would have to give at least a full months notice and that notice should end on the last day of the current tenancy.

    Comment


      #3
      There are two ways that a tenancy continues when the end of the initial term is reached.

      The most common is that the fixed term ends and the Housing Act 1988 creates a new periodic tenancy, called a Statutory Periodic Tenancy.
      The less common (but increasingly popular) is a contractual periodic tenancy, where the original contract doesn't have a fixed term (it has an initial term or a minimum term) and then continues as a Contractual Periodic Tenancy.

      What you have there (assuming there's nothing anywhere else in the document about what happens after the minimum term) is not so much ambiguous as defective.

      The contract has a minimum term, which you would expect to then continue, but there's nothing to say that it does.

      I would probably ask the landlord why they think the agreement can continue at all. If there's nothing in the agreement that says the agreement can continue, it would have to be a periodic tenancy creates by the housing act, and that can't happen if there's no fixed term.

      So, the agreement just ends. The word minimum implies it could be longer, but I don't see how.

      So I think whoever created that agreement has outsmarted themselves and you should leave when you intend to (and probably have a bit of a fight about getting your deposit back).

      If the agreement does have text elsewhere that tells you what happens at the end of the minimum term, all the above is wrong.

      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


        #4
        For a grant of a tenancy to be valid the duration must be certain. To comply with that requirement:

        (a) The start date must be known.
        (b) The maximum duration must be known on commencement.

        There is no problem with (a), but we are in difficulty with (b) because what is specified is the minimum duration. I am not sure what to make of that.

        When you purport to grant a tenancy there are three possibilities:

        (1) The grant is void. If that happens and the tenant goes into occupation and pays rent monthly there will be a monthly periodic tenancy which requires a month's notice.

        (2) The grant is valid and creates a fixed term tenancy. There has to be serious doubt that the wording creates a fixed term as no end date is specifed.

        (3) The grant is valid and creates a periodic tenancy. There is an argument that that is what the wording achieves. Reading "The Term" and "Notice Period" together we seem to get a periodic tenancy of which the first period is six months and which can be ended by two months' notice expiring at any time after the first six months. There are two problems with that. The first is whether the two provisions can be read together or whether the definition of the term has to be taken as defined and cannot be expanded or varied by another provision. The second is whether the notice provision has to be taken to mean precisely what it says. If it does then it does not provide how the tenancy can be ended, but only what notice to is to be given to vacate. On balance I think a court would say that the provisions is intended to provide what notice is to be given to end the tenancy.

        All in all a bit tricky. What you what is for it to be (2) but that is probably the least acceptable interpretation. However, I think you argue that the agreement grants a fixed term on the grounds that it is not drafted in plain and intelligible language and that that is the intention which springs out to a layman. You can quote the "contra proferentem" rule which provides that an ambiguity is resolved against the person who drew up the document.

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