Surrender of lodger agreement

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    Surrender of lodger agreement

    Hi All,

    I’m having problems with my former (thank God!) landlord.

    We signed a lodger contract in August 2015. The contract had no break clause and it was indicated that the agreement can be terminated earlier only upon the payment of outstanding rent (i.e. till the end of the contract).

    Out of 8 months of living there, for 5 months landlord was working outside the UK and he was not living there. I also had the key to my room (but landlord had one too).

    The conditions in the flat were horrible – we had MUSHROOMS (yes, the ones with leg and hat, not just mould) in the toilet, no shower (we used jug to pour water on oneself) and chemicals (paint, manufactural alcohol etc.) stored in the kitchen.

    There were also some ridiculous terms in the contract, such as that I am obliged to share one meal a day (with landlord) and I can use washing machine only between 10:30am and 5:30pm. I also felt harassed by the landlord once he returned from abroad by the end of January.
    I decided I need to leave as I was concerned about my health (mushroom issue).

    I know I would have to pay the outstanding rent if I just left, BUT my landlord agreed for me leaving. We signed the following document:
    “This is to confirm that me and landlord have jointly agreed to and are both happy with me vacating the property earlier than the contract term termination date of end of July, i.e. on [date]. I will conduct the checkout at 5pm on that day. I will try to find a replacement lodger and I will return the deposit balance according to the conditions of the contract”.

    He also said that he will not pursue me for any losses if he doesn’t find a lodger, but he assured me he most definitely will. So I decided to leave.
    Now LL wants me to pay him the amounts till the end of the agreement AND he withheld my whole deposit, deducting it by some ridiculous amounts (like fumigation of the room, redecoration of the room, broken toilet seat, electricity bill from January (regardless of the fact that I had bills paid within the rent), re-letting adverts since January, envelope he send me the letter etc.).

    My questions:
    1) Can he actually hold mi liable for his “losses”, and make me keep paying him? I understand we signed a “surrender” document and the agreement ended at the end of March. He also assured me that he will not pursue me for any losses. I also checked the advert on Gumtree – he made his room available from 27 May, so I understand he has already found the lodger till that time.
    2) Can I sue him to get my deposit back? I am happy with some fair and reasonable deduction, but after his deductions the room is in better state than when I moved in.

    I would appreciate your help!

    Many thanks!

    #2
    1 - The rent he hasn't received is not a loss, it's (at best) a consequential loss, and the landlord would have to argue that it is an inevitable consequence of your failure to perform your part of the contract, which I don't think it is.
    2 - Yes. You would use the small claims court (online version is called Money Claim Online). First write a letter confirming what deductions you accept and request the return of the remainder of the deposit in (say) a fortnight after which time you may take legal action to recover without further notice.
    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
      Many thanks for your response!

      So do you think that this document we signed can help protect my position that I don't have to pay him for the last four months (around £2,000)? If I sue him for £500 of my deposit, he can counterclaim for these £2,000 and I wonder if a judge will be willing to award him rather than me?

      Comment


        #4
        That would be up to the judge based on the actual wording in the agreement.

        You have pretty much two choices - see if the landlord sues you for the money they think they owe you and counter claim if they do, or take pre-emptive action.

        The contract sounds like a bit of a mess and the text of the leaving agreement isn't great - it isn't very clear who the "I" is who will be trying to find a new tenant and return the deposit.
        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


          #5
          Thanks!

          In the leaving agreement it is indicated at the beginning: "I - [name and surname of the landlord]".

          I am planning to send him a letter questioning the receipts / invoices he sent me (e.g. he tampered some of the invoices, some are written by himself, some are uidentifiable etc.) and request payment within 5 days (as he is already late for 14 days). Does that sound reasonable?

          Comment


            #6
            If the "I" is the landlord, there's nothing in the termination agreement that says the rent will continue to be paid.
            You'd have to interpret the commitment to try to find a new tenant to mean that this would indicate that otherwise rent would continue to be payable.

            Which is the obvious inference, otherwise the landlord is agreeing to do something they probably would do anyway (so the wording would not be there).
            However, they also agree to return the deposit in line with the terms of the contract, which again, doesn't need to be said.

            It will depend on a judge on the day.
            You might get lucky and the landlord might not turn up in court - lots of people don't.

            I'm not being flippant, but it's pretty much a coin toss.
            If the landlord doesn't get the rent they're demanding, they might just give up and accept keeping the deposit (unfairly, I accept).
            Once you send your letter, you might just be starting a process that ends with you being worse off.
            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
              Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
              If the "I" is the landlord, there's nothing in the termination agreement that says the rent will continue to be paid.
              In the termination agreement there is nothing about me paying the rent for the months after I moved out and I thought that once we are happy with me leaving and terminating the agreement (and confirm that in writing), I am no longer liable for rent payments.

              Does our termination agreement change the clause in the origingal contract, that it can be terminated earlier only upon payment of the outstanding rent?

              Comment


                #8
                The later agreement, the surrender, should prevail over any earlier agreement it contradicts.

                You and the landlord originally agreed X and have now agreed Y.
                That's the whole point of the surrender agreement, it confirms that you are agreeing to do something different (otherwise it wouldn't be necessary).

                The problem is that there's nothing about not paying the rent either.
                Which raises the issue of why the landlord is agreeing to look for a new tenant - how does that agreement help you if rent isn't going to continue to be due? Because it doesn't seem to help the landlord.
                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
                  I thought it helps me because if there is no contract anymore, I should not pay for rent (we mutually agreed to terminate the contract, so there is no basis for the landlord to claim any future rent). He said he is okay with letting me go and he will not pursue me for any "losses" and I won't have to pay the rent. He also assured me that he will pay me the deposit back.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I'm not disagreeing with any of that (although clearly the landlord is), I'm just saying what I see when I read the actual words that are there.

                    It does help you.
                    It just isn't as certain as I would like (personally) in your situation.

                    If your claim and the landlord's claim were equal, I'd feel more confident.
                    You're asking for £500 with a possible counter claim of £2,000 - so the risk is 4:1 against you, while the evidence is (say) 60:40 in your favour.

                    If the landlord had claimed the £2000 via a court, you'd have no choice but to defend yourself and counter claim.
                    You're risking forcing their hand - which is a worry.

                    And, of course, it isn't my £500 the scrote has taken!
                    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
                      Hi All!

                      So a quick update - I have sent him an email saying that I do not owe him anything and challenging every receipt he sent me.

                      He sent me the following email couple of days ago:

                      "I have received legal advice. I am the victim of considerable loss which is increasing daily. You are not the victim here. I have been willing to accept a sensible offer therefore I do not accept your offer as it is completely unreasonable and totally unacceptable. It is clear there is nothing to negotiate through further discussion.
                      I have presented you with the bills receipts for dilapidations and loss of rent according to the conditions stated in the Lodgers contract. Despite making every proven effort to find a replacement Lodger in order to mitigate my loss of rent, so far I have still been unsuccessful. Currently you now owe me XXXX.

                      As I have already explained, I decided to cut my losses by not pursuing you for the money you owe me as it will consume to too much of my time.

                      However I am happy to provide the court with all the photos and supportive evidence validating my receipts along with a logged history of all your threatening and libellous emails, if you want to pursue this through court action. I will be only too glad to air my grievances in a court law and have a judge decided on the outcome."

                      My questions:

                      1) What does that mean? Does he mean that he will not go to court to chase me for the rent unless I go to court to pursue him for the deposit? Or does he mean that unless I pay him, he will go to court?

                      2) If he said "I will not pursue you", does that mean he still can go to court and judge may award him on the basis that he changed his mind?

                      3) My friend called him - the room is available indeed, but the landlord was supposed to call him back and schedule the viewing, but neverd did that. I am worried that he is saying that he won't sue me, but then in August he will sue me for the whole amount of rent (given he's not trying to rent out the room).

                      Any help would be much appreciated! Thank you!

                      Comment


                        #12
                        1) I think it means he won't go to court if you don't.
                        2) He can change his mind at any point over the next 6 years. The statement that he wouldn't might count against him in court, but it's unlikely to be something you could 100% rely on.
                        3) The bit about the missing rent is a bluff. If he's actually taken legal advice, if he is entitled to the rent in lieu of notice he's not obliged to mitigate his loss, if he's not entitled to it in lieu of notice, he's had no loss to mitigate. And the stuff about libellous emails isn't very sensible either.

                        As I said before, I think you've got a good but not brilliant case.
                        You stand to lose more than you stand to gain, so it's a personal call for you.
                        He sounds like a bully, but don't let that or your desire for him not to win cloud your judgement.
                        Last edited by jpkeates; 31-05-2016, 09:54 AM. Reason: typo
                        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


                          #13
                          Jpkeates, many thanks for your help!

                          At this point I am willing to let go my deposit, just want to end this. It's not worth to put yourself under such a stress for this amount.

                          Could you please explain what do you mean in point no. 3? I am sorry, I think I don't get it - do you mean that if he's entitled to the rent, he should mitigate his losses?

                          Thank you!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            If you are in most types of contract with someone and they break it, you can claim compensation for your loss - but you are obliged to keep the losses to a minimum.
                            If you're in the fixed term of a lease, you're obliged to pay the rent - there's no requirement for the landlord to mitigate their loss (obviously it's nice if they do, but they don't have to).

                            My point was more that, if the landlord had actually taken legal advice, the advisor would have told them that expressing the need to mitigate their losses doesn't help their case (they should probably be adamant that they don't need to mitigate their loss).
                            And unless your emails went to anyone else as well as the landlord (or you posted them somewhere), they, almost certainly, can't be libellous.
                            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


                              #15
                              I can't understand why you didn't report the state of the property to the local council's environmental health department. Mushrooms!!!

                              Comment

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