Right to terminate after landlord dispute

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    Right to terminate after landlord dispute

    Following an ongoing dispute about the length of time the landlord (via a letting agent) has taken to repair a faulty appliance (2 months+), I am trying to determine my rights as a private tenant.
    I wish to leave the property because of the hassle the dispute has caused me and the AST contract I have signed (Fixed term, 1 year with 6 month break, started in Feb) includes a clause which states exactly:

    4.26 Ending the Tenancy and Moving Out
    "To give the Landlord at least one calendar months notice in writing when the Tenant wishes to end the Tenancy..."

    The letting agent claims that this is a standard clause that only applies to the final month of the term (or the 6 month break), but since the contract does not state this, I disagree.
    The letting agent has made it clear that they will not agree to end the contract before the term is up.
    The appliance failed just short of the 6 month break and had I known how long the landlord would take to repair it, I certainly would have given notice and left the property then.
    Throughout the dispute I am certain I have acted fairly and within the contract, given access to the property, continued paying rent, even taken time off work to wait at home for engineers (some who never turned up).

    Do I have any remit to leave the property after giving one month's notice? Or am I entitled to any kind of compensation?

    I feel like these kinds of problems always favour the landlord and that the tenant has no realistic options (other than lengthy, expensive, legal proceedings) when it comes to dispute resolution. Any thoughts?

    #2
    Originally posted by adelphus View Post
    4.26 Ending the Tenancy and Moving Out
    "To give the Landlord at least one calendar months notice in writing when the Tenant wishes to end the Tenancy..."
    Assuming that is all there is:

    It is not strictly a break clause at all. It simply requires the tenant to give notice if he wishes to end the tenancy, but not does not say what the effect of giving the notice is. So, if the tenant writes and says he wishes to end the tenancy the landlord can reply that the wish is noted, but point out that notwithstanding the wish expressed the tenancy will continue. I suspect that what the clause is there for is to try and make sure the landlord gets notice if the tenant wants to leave at the end of the fixed term - that is indeed a standard clause, but one that has no effect.

    Even if it is a break clause, we can say that it is certainly not a six month break clause since there is no mention at all of when the notice can be served.

    If when you took the tenancy you were told the tenancy agreement would include a six month break clause then you have an argument that it should be read as if the clause were included. Unless the precise nature of the clause was discussed, you argue that it must be that the tenant has the right to terminate the tenancy when or at any time after the first six months has elapsed.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by adelphus View Post
      Following an ongoing dispute about the length of time the landlord (via a letting agent) has taken to repair a faulty appliance (2 months+)
      Firstly, does the tenancy contract says that the landlord is responsible for repair of the appliance in question? I ask because the landlord has no statutory obligation to repair kitchen appliances, so it would have to be a contractual obligation to repair something like a fridge or oven or washing machine. Secondly, are you certain that the fault has not been caused by misuse?

      If the answer is yes, the contract clearly states the LL is responsible, and the appliance hasn't gone wrong due to your misuse of it, then there is a procedure you can follow whereby you obtain quotes for repair, send the quotes to the LL, advising him that if he doesn't do the work by a reasonable deadline, then you will organize the work yourself, and deduct the cost from the rent. (That's a simplified version of the procedure).

      BUT it is essential to follow the procedure precisely, or you risk the withheld rent being treated as arrears. See this link for the exact procedure.

      Or am I entitled to any kind of compensation?
      The amount would only reflect the actual loss you may have suffered; for example, if it's a broken washing machine, then you might have a claim for the cost of the launderette for the period the machine was out of action.

      4.26 Ending the Tenancy and Moving Out
      "To give the Landlord at least one calendar months notice in writing when the Tenant wishes to end the Tenancy..."
      As lawcruncher says, this isn't a six month break clause. Is there anything else in the contract about it? If so, please quote the exact wording.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by adelphus View Post
        Following an ongoing dispute about the length of time the landlord (via a letting agent) has taken to repair a faulty appliance (2 months+), I am trying to determine my rights as a private tenant.
        I wish to leave the property because of the hassle the dispute has caused me and the AST contract I have signed (Fixed term, 1 year with 6 month break, started in Feb) includes a clause which states exactly:

        4.26 Ending the Tenancy and Moving Out
        "To give the Landlord at least one calendar months notice in writing when the Tenant wishes to end the Tenancy..."

        The letting agent claims that this is a standard clause that only applies to the final month of the term (or the 6 month break), but since the contract does not state this, I disagree.
        The letting agent has made it clear that they will not agree to end the contract before the term is up.
        The appliance failed just short of the 6 month break and had I known how long the landlord would take to repair it, I certainly would have given notice and left the property then.
        Throughout the dispute I am certain I have acted fairly and within the contract, given access to the property, continued paying rent, even taken time off work to wait at home for engineers (some who never turned up).

        Do I have any remit to leave the property after giving one month's notice? Or am I entitled to any kind of compensation?

        I feel like these kinds of problems always favour the landlord and that the tenant has no realistic options (other than lengthy, expensive, legal proceedings) when it comes to dispute resolution. Any thoughts?
        FYI - In case you don't know, you are not required to give notice just because the tenancy is coming to an end.
        You can walk out of the property at 11.59pm on the last day of the tenancy term (or notice period) and be fully compliant with the tenancy terms.

        FYI - Many letting agents are totally inept at writing clauses in tenancy agreements and just chuck in clauses that look OK or because they have been used a zillion times in the past by previous staff without any tenant challenging them.
        The clause you have shown us is badly written and in my view, unless there is anything else in the tenancy agreement about ending the tenancy, I think you can leave by giving one months notice at any time since leaving before 12 months is not expressly prohibited.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by HairyLandlord View Post
          The clause you have shown us is badly written and in my view, unless there is anything else in the tenancy agreement about ending the tenancy, I think you can leave by giving one months notice at any time since leaving before 12 months is not expressly prohibited.
          Alternatively:
          a. T can 'leave' at any time; but
          b. it's irrelevant that leaving before 12 months is not expressly prohibited; and
          c. the letting term will continue until the expiry date, as will T's liability for rent.
          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


            #6
            Thank you all for your comments. I will add some more information below. Any further comments are very much appreciated.

            The 6 month break:
            The 6 month break is explicitly defined in the definition of the tenancy term:
            "The tenancy is granted for a term of 12 months with a 6 month break out clause and begins on 20th February 2010".
            This is the only place in the entire contract where the 6 month break is mentioned.
            Since (I assume) a break clause may only be taken at the point of the break, I would struggle to defend the idea that I'm entitled to leave the property anytime after the first 6 months (although this seems perfectly reasonable to me - if the contract accepts me leaving at 6 months, why not 7 months or 8 months, etc).

            The termination clause:
            The clause in it's entirety reads:
            "To give the LL at least 1 calendar months notice in writing when the T wishes to end the Tenancy and to give the LL vacant possession at the end of the Tenancy and to remove all furniture, personal possessions and rubbish and deliver up all keys to the LL by 12 noon on the date of termination."
            There are no other clauses directly relating to ending the tenancy - the rest are to do with LL charging T for costs to remove property remaining after T leaves, etc, etc.
            Lawcruncher: I can see your reasoning behind the "T can notify his wish.. but the Tenancy will continue", but doesn't that render the entire clause pointless. I could notify the LL about any of my wishes (let's say Winning the Lottery [if I played]), the same argument would apply. Surely my wish indicates the intention, or does the intention always need to be explicitly stated?
            I actually chuckled at your "clause that has no effect" comment - I didn't think there was such a thing.

            Responsibility:
            There is no explicit clause regarding whose responsibility it is to fix the appliance. The only clause is the standard "LL must keep in good repair and working order installations provided by the LL for space heating, water, sanitation,...". Since there is no clause indicating it is my responsibility and the appliance belongs to the LL, I figure it's his problem. The LL has never disputed this point and has never asked me to fix it myself.

            And yes, Westminster, no offence but I consider myself to be an excellent tenant and am certain the appliance breaking down was through natural causes rather than any misuse of it. I just wish everyone would play by the rules.

            Compensation:
            Recovering actual costs is pointless. The amount of actual money this dispute has cost me is minimal - it's more a "depressive, pain-in-the-ass, time-wasting" type cost which I obviously can't easily quantify. It's seriously disheartening to pay rent on time each month, keep the property in good nick and then find the LL messes you about. And of course, ever tried asking a letting agent to provide a reference for a LL before signing a contract? I was actually laughed at the last time I tried that.

            Doing it myself:
            Yes, I could go ahead and give a repair-timeframe in writing, obtain quotes for the repair myself, etc but there's a problem with that: The LL (or actually engineers) took the appliance away many weeks ago - I'm left with a hole in the kitchen and nothing to get a quote for, other than a brand new appliance. Is this a reasonable step?

            "Many letting agents are totally inept at writing clauses in tenancy agreements" - agreed, HairyLandlord! My particular contract looks like a boilerplate AST with quite a few typo's and clauses that cannot possibly apply to my property. But when push comes to shove, I unfortunately can't use "The contract is badly written" as an excuse for leaving before the term ends.

            My current view of all this (based upon your comments) is that it's a risky idea to give notice and leave without still being liable for the remaining 4 months rent. This is highly depressing. If I didn't pay any rent for the amount of time the LL has messed me about, I'm certain the letting agent would be taking action against me. Still, it's the same for all AST folk I guess.

            Any comments appreciated.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by adelphus View Post
              The 6 month break is explicitly defined in the definition of the tenancy term:
              "The tenancy is granted for a term of 12 months with a 6 month break out clause and begins on 20th February 2010".
              The above is meaningless to me and can be read in many ways.

              What did you understand the 6 month break to mean when you negotiated the tenancy?

              Was it one fixed break at 20 August (which I assume is the case) or the ability to break at any time on or after 20 August ?

              Clause 4.26 doesn't seem so strange when linked to the 6 month break.

              Comment


                #8
                The 6 month break was never formally (or informally) discussed when the contract was signed because my understanding (at the time) was that it meant I could not leave within the first 6 months of the agreement - this I've had in previous AST's with other agents/LLs. This, I thought, meant I could leave at any time after 6 months, so long as I gave a month's notice. All of this seemed perfectly reasonable to me.
                My understanding now (after a bit of searching around) is that the break can only be taken at the 6 month point (i.e on 20th Aug), even if it is not explicitly declared as such. I'm certain that is the agent's view because they refuse to accept my any notice I give.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Put me out of my misery - what appliance is it?

                  PS. You said you took days off work to allow workmen in - you either lost pay or had to use holiday allowance. That counts as a cost.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by gardeningmad View Post
                    Put me out of my misery - what appliance is it?
                    It's a dishwasher.
                    Any quotes about getting my hands dirty and doing the dishes myself are not appreciated!

                    In reality, the reason for me wanting to leave is future-proofing myself. Additional problems when I first moved into the property (like a broken window not being fixed - and still isn't) did leave me with a bitter taste soon after signing the contract.
                    This additional problem and the fact the agency/landlord has made such a hash of it has made me extremely worried about what might happen if something more critical failed.
                    Predicting the future is a difficult task, but as a tenant who pays rent on time, and keeps to the rules, I feel I'm reasonable in trying to protect myself from any further problems.
                    Last edited by adelphus; 23-09-2010, 09:53 AM. Reason: More info

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by adelphus View Post
                      The 6 month break:
                      The 6 month break is explicitly defined in the definition of the tenancy term:
                      "The tenancy is granted for a term of 12 months with a 6 month break out clause and begins on 20th February 2010".
                      This is the only place in the entire contract where the 6 month break is mentioned.
                      This isn't an exercisable break clause either, because it doesn't say who may exercise the break clause, or how and when it may be exercised, etc.

                      But there is lawcruncher's argument:
                      If when you took the tenancy you were told the tenancy agreement would include a six month break clause then you have an argument that it should be read as if the clause were included. Unless the precise nature of the clause was discussed, you argue that it must be that the tenant has the right to terminate the tenancy when or at any time after the first six months has elapsed.
                      Originally posted by adelphus View Post
                      Responsibility:
                      There is no explicit clause regarding whose responsibility it is to fix the appliance. The only clause is the standard "LL must keep in good repair and working order installations provided by the LL for space heating, water, sanitation,...". Since there is no clause indicating it is my responsibility and the appliance belongs to the LL, I figure it's his problem.
                      As I said before, the LL has no statutory obligation to repair kitchen appliances, so in the absence of a provision in the contract or alternatively a check-in inventory in which the dishwasher is described as in working order, (i.e. a contractual obligation) it is the T's responsibility to repair the dishwasher.

                      Originally posted by adelphus View Post
                      Doing it myself:
                      Yes, I could go ahead and give a repair-timeframe in writing, obtain quotes for the repair myself, etc but there's a problem with that: The LL (or actually engineers) took the appliance away many weeks ago - I'm left with a hole in the kitchen and nothing to get a quote for, other than a brand new appliance. Is this a reasonable step?
                      I'm not sure. The fact that there is NO dishwasher is arguably a breach, i.e. whilst LL is not obliged to repair the dishwasher, he did provide it as part of the contents so he is not entitled to remove it permanently.

                      However, the procedure for quotes/withholding rent was established by case law - Lee-Parker v Izzet [1971] - and the case specifically relates to the landlord's repairing obligations.

                      Wait for one of the legally qualified members to comment, as to whether this principle could extend to a replacement dishwasher - however, even if the answer is yes, if the LL returned the broken dishwasher mid-procedure this would be enough to fulfill his side of the contract.

                      Originally posted by adelphus View Post
                      (like a broken window not being fixed - and still isn't)
                      You can definitely use the procedure for this. Repair of windows falls under LL's statutory repairing obligations (s.11 LTA1985).

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Surely in lack of proper explanation of the break clause any judge would interprete it in the best way possible. As it recieves a mention then it must have some implication?

                        I don't deal with residential property at all but was of the impression that a landlord had to maintain any appliance that is let with the property, clearly im wrong!
                        [I]The opinions I give are simply my opinions and interpretations of what I have learnt, in numerous years as a property professional, I would not rely upon them without consulting with a paid advisor and providing them with all the relevant facts[I]

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I can't comment on your ability to withdraw from the contract, previous posts are correct, you need a legal eagle to advise you on that. That being said the hassle of going to court and running the risk of losing the case can't be worth the risk for the sake of a few months?

                          Knowing that you want to go and that you can just leave on the last day without telling the LL surely the best approach is to tackle the faults with the LL head on. If he doesn't like it then he can take the initiative and ask you to leave.

                          I would be very cross if I didn't have a dishwasher - I would write to the LL and say that you are making a deduction of 25 pounds a month from the rent because of the lack of dishwasher.

                          I would also write and give 10 days notice for him to repair the window otherwise you will be forced to contact the private rental officer at the council.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Thanks once again for all your thoughts. It's at least positive to know that I'm not being completely unreasonable, even if it is just a dishwasher!

                            Originally posted by gardeningmad View Post
                            I would be very cross if I didn't have a dishwasher - I would write to the LL and say that you are making a deduction of 25 pounds a month from the rent because of the lack of dishwasher.
                            I am very cross, but I cannot risk getting into rent arrears over a non-life-dependant appliance (the LA calls it a luxury appliance). I feel that deducting/withholding arbitrary amounts is not as reasonable as, say, obtaining exact costs for a new appliance.

                            Originally posted by gardeningmad View Post
                            I would also write and give 10 days notice for him to repair the window otherwise you will be forced to contact the private rental officer at the council.
                            Have kicked the LA (again) about getting this sorted. Not really as critical to my well-being, but shows the lack of response from the landlord for sorting issues.

                            At the end of the day, it is just a few more months that I'll have to put up with this rubbish. Have already indicated to the LA that I will definitely NOT renew when the contract is up, regardless of when I leave. So, no matter the outcome, they will be having to find a new tenant soon.

                            Will keep all posted. Thanks.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              One final update to this, in case anyone else reads through this and wonders what the outcome was.

                              Eventually, I managed to get the Letting Agent to agree to terminate the contract early. It was clear I wasn't going to stick around and they quickly realised that (and were probably fed up of me complaining to them). I have now moved to a new place which appears to be much better maintained by the landlord.
                              My old place now has a new tenant, but still the old problems. The LA managed to replace the dishwasher before I left - finding new tenants for a flat with a massive hole in the kitchen is apparently quite difficult - it was, of course, replaced with the cheapest one they could find.

                              The window is still broken and I expect it will stay like that for a long time. I don't live in the same area any more, but if I happen to pass by in the future, I will probably glance by and shudder at the thought of still being there.

                              Hopefully better experiences will be had in my new place.

                              Thanks to all who commented.

                              Comment

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