Help please, when does contract become binding?

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    Help please, when does contract become binding?

    I hope someone can help. We were in rented accomodation when our landlords sold to new landlords (property developers) who also bought the rest of the estate around us. At the end of the old term, the new landlords drew up a new tenancy agreement, for a fixed term 1 year with break clause at 6 months and 2 months notice to operate. They emailed us to agree details, then sent the agreement asking us to sign date and witness it, and return, which we did. About ten days after the commencement of the new contract, they sent an email saying they had changed their minds and now needed the property back. (I should say we had payed first months rent of the new term at the commencement of the new term). Now (2 1/2 months later, they are saying we did not have an agreement because although we signed the agreement, they did not. Today they rang offering us money to leave in 2 weeks. even though we have in writing the terms and conditions of the offer, we have the contract, we signed it, and they accepted our rent ever since.

    Question
    Did the contract become binding to them on the start date even though technically they did not sign it?
    Is there relevant law or advice that could help us know where we stand?

    I should say we have evidence from another tenant that they did not sign their contract either, even though they lived in a house for six months.

    I'd be so grateful for some help here! Thanks hopefully

    #2
    I believe that if they have accepted rent from you, a contract has been created, and since you have a written AST it's likely that any judge would rule that the written contract was binding even if not signed.

    The fact that LL has offered £££ for you to leave indicates that he knows he is in the wrong.

    I should sit tight; they are just trying it on.

    Peter

    Comment


      #3
      How much have they offered you to move? Is it an amount worth your while?

      One way or another they have two give you a min. 2 months notice which must expire on the last day of a rent period and must also take any fixed term into account.
      So at some stage in the future you are going to have to move out anyway! As such why not get them to pay ALL costs involved for you moving plus a little bit extra for the grief.

      Comment


        #4
        the equivalent of 6 weeks rent (as compared to 6 months left to run). Not even remotely worthwhile

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you Peter, that was my hunch but it's hard to find written info that says that's the case. Do you have any idea of relevant law/books etc?

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by pcwilkins View Post
            I believe that if they have accepted rent from you, a contract has been created, and since you have a written AST it's likely that any judge would rule that the written contract was binding even if not signed.
            Effectively, yes.
            The written contract itself is NOT binding, because unsigned.
            BUT an AST does not need to be written- even an oral tenancy is binding if the parties' conduct evidences its acceptance of its terms. Payment/receipt of rent is probably sufficient, coupled with agreed written terms (albeit unsigned), to prove a binding AST.
            JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
            1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
            2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
            3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
            4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

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              #7
              thank you for this, just one detail though, I have found out that the tenancy agreement was a contractual tenancy rather than an AST. Does this make any difference?

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by justmeagain View Post
                thank you for this, just one detail though, I have found out that the tenancy agreement was a contractual tenancy rather than an AST. Does this make any difference?
                No. Conduct of parties is what counts. The only diference is that, for an oral AST, there is a statutory right- s.20A of 1988 Act- for T to demand written statement of main tenancy provisions. No such right exists outside the Act.
                JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                Comment


                  #9
                  If you are in possession of the property (which I think you are) then if they have accepted rent from you under the terms of the new contract (written or not) then you are entitled to stay there for the length of the fixed term.

                  Might be a way of making some £££££££s though if you don't mind moving and I would expect them to pay your costs also.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Another point of view:

                    Unless the rent has changed in cost, or the rent has been presented in a new or special way at the outset of the 'new tenancy', how else can you tell if the rent is not being paid as normal, as part of the old tenancy agreement ?
                    IE if the rent is paid by standing order and just continues as normal, it doesn't necessarily follow that the rent could be called a "consideration" for the new tenancy, seeing the new agreement was not executed properly. It is merely rent being paid as normal.

                    So unless rent payment has changed, it is not necessarily a new tenancy.
                    All posts in good faith, but do not rely on them

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                      #11
                      Last shot wins.

                      As Jeffrey quite rightly says LL presented terms to the tenant and the tenant accepted them by signing the agreement and paying the rent (acceptance by performance).

                      To answer Bel's post - which raises a good point - it is true the LL could say that the payment of itself is not enough - however, the payment combined with the signing and returning of the tenancy agreement is very strong evidence indeed that the tenant accepted the LL's offer of a new fixed term. If of course the tenant had sent back the agreement unsigned, but continued to pay rent, then that would be evidence of their rejection of the offer of a new fixed term.

                      The tenant may well also be able to raise a proprietory estoppel against the LL in that he promised them an interest in land and they acted to their detriment on the basis of that promise; see, for example, IIRC, Crabb v. Arun District Council. If that is the case, then the LL will be estopped from serving notice until the 6 month point as provided in the written terms.
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