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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 24292
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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My niece has been privately renting her accommodation for the

Customer Question

My niece has been privately renting her accommodation for the past 18 months.
AST agreement began in April 2012 she signed agreement for 12 months.

The letting of this property is through an agent and in April 2013 she was sent an A4 piece of paper with just a paragraph on it, she had to sign and send back the letter to the agent, they told her this means she can remain in property under same conditions 12 month AST.

My niece now wishes to end tenancy as family moving abroad,but she was told by landlord she can't do this as she's missed the window in which she can give 6 months notice which was by the 31st August. My niece asked for a copy of her tenancy agreement so she could read through and get advice. The agent sent her an unsigned copy of AST dated 2012.
When she asked for 2013/14 AST they told her it's exactly the same as 2012 one so not to worry.

My niece decided to see if she could surrender the property so put in writing 2 months notice , the letting agent passed this on to landlord.
Yesterday my niece received an email from letting agent contents below:


I write with reference to the above mentioned property and would like to confirm the following.


You signed a Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement from the 30th April 2012 for a period of 12 months with a subsequent 12 month renewal from the 30th April 2013. You have contacted us advising that you no longer wish to continue with the Tenancy Agreement and wished to vacate the property.


As advised you are bound by the terms of the tenancy so you remain liable for the rent and for the condition of this property in accordance with the terms of the Tenancy Agreement.


However, we have spoken to your Landlord who has agreed for you to be released from your Tenancy with the following conditions:



You are required to continue to pay the rent as the current tenant until a new tenant has taken occupancy of the property or until the end of tenancy, which ever comes sooner



You will be liable to pay for the Landlord re-letting costs to find a new applicant of £165 + VAT



You will be liable to pay for an electrical safety certificate of £60.00 + VAT being a requirement to undertake a new electrical safety certificate when finding a new tenant.



Your deposit of £550.00 will continue to be held by The DPS until you have vacated the property and an inspection has been undertaken to confirm the property condition. If you vacate the property with rental arrears remaining on your account or dilapidation to the property following our inspection.

It is therefore agreed that you will pay the sum of £198 reletting costs and £72.00 for the electrical inspection in the first instance for us to hold on account.


My question is as my niece doesn't have any signed agreement in her possession can the landlord do this?

Also she definitely didn't sign another AST for 2013/14 just a renewal letter.

Any help would be appreciated
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: UK Property Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 6 months ago.
Hi

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX X will try to help with this.

What was the notice period specified in the original contract please?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.

2 months when she first moved in

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Just spoken to niece and notice period for first year was 2 months this year it's changed to give notice by 4th month of tenancy ( August ) to be able to leave at 6th month which is October , if not then stay to end of tenancy April.
Niece definitely only signed letter for 2013/14 not full agreement and no copy of any docs relating to this year
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
It seems the condition of tenancy re notice length changed in second year from 2 months to 6 but no agreement was signed only letter with new notice terms on it. I imagine its a renewal letter but surely an agreement has to be signed? Not just a letter? And niece should have a copy of a signed upto date agreement?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
For Jo C

Just wondering if you have a reply for me
Thanks
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Relist: Other.
I posted question almost 5 hours ago but only received a response asking for more info which I gave still no reply, I see my expert is online and has answered other questions but not mine
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
Thanks for your question. Please kindly RATE my answer when you are satisfied

My colleague has opted out of this question. I would be delighted to assist you if you still require assistance. I specialise in landlord and tenant law. please let me know if I can help I will be pleased to respond
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Joshua
Yes please, do I need to re type question or do you have access to it?
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
No I can see it. I will just read through the information you have posted and revert to you in a couple of minutes if thats ok.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
Thanks for the above. Do you happen to have a copy of the agreement she has been sent (albeit unsigned but that they say she signed) to hand?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Unfortunately not
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
I now have sister on phone with agreement in her hand
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
There are two stages to this so far as I can see. the first step is to establish your nieces rights under the existing tenancy. It is undisputed from what you say that she signed an original tenancy which has now expired. She may or may not have signed the renewal. The renewal can be a short document which simply sets out that she is agreeing to extend the tenancy by another 12 months and sets out whether any increase in rent is applied. however, from what you say, they have not been able to produce to date copy of her renewal.

if she has signed a renewal, then the position is more difficult I will expand upon this further below. if she has not signed a renewal or they are not able to produce a copy of the alleged renewal that she signed, then the position is that your niece has something called a statutory periodic tenancy which renews month-to-month and accordingly if this is the case, she need only give the landlord one clear month's notice to leave which notice would expire the day before rent is payable subject to a minimum of one month.

If she has signed a renewal... tbc

I have just seen your latest post. On that basis, I will pause for a moment and ask whether you can see any evidence of a break clause in the tenancy. A break clause can be worded in different ways but the wording will normally be something along the lines of "After 6 months the landlord or tenant may give the other 1 months notice to bring this tenancy to an end.". do not look for the exact wording above but rather wording which conveys this meaning is break clauses can be worded in many different ways. Can you see anything which fits this? if so, are you able to type it word for word?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
No nothing in agreement about break clause, unfortunately niece definitely signed renewal so now finds herself in a difficult situation.
If there is no way out then she'll have to pay rent until landlord finds new tenant even though niece won't be living there. But could you tell me if niece is liable for all the other charges landlord states? Re electric check and fees for looking for new tenant?
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
Thanks. That is a shame. If she accepts that she did sign a renewal and there is no break clause,

the position is that the starting point is that subject as follows your niece cannot unilaterally end the tenancy before or during the fixed tenancy period. However it is possible to escape early from the tenancy by asking the landlord to remarket the property or for her herself to find a replacement tenant. The landlord has a common law duty to mitigate his costs and loses and as such must do his best to remarket the property. She would be liable for his reasonable marketing costs together with any reasonable agency fees - the fees proposed do not on the face of it appear unreasonable. However her liability would end on the earlier of the end of her existing new fixed term or a new tenant being sourced to replace her. The landlord cannot refuse to do anything at all or he will find that he is limited in the amount of continuing rent he can attempt to recover.

 

 

Notwithstanding any of the above, there are some other bases on which she can possibly extract herself from the agreement as follows though I do not suggest that any may be relevant if the property is in good condition however if there are any issues with the property she may be able to use the following to her advantage: the landlord has duties under statutory legislation. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides that the Landlord has a duty of care to provide adequate and safe conditions in his properties and the Housing Act 2004 introduced the Housing Health and Safety Rating System which shifted assessment towards health and safety impact. Each council is responsible for developing its own policy but most have a substantive list of requirements that address mould, damp and so on. There is a useful guide to the same here:

 

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/9425/150940.pdf

 

Regarding the electrical safety certificate the agent has requested payment for there is no basis for her to pay this unless it has been specifically agreed by her in the agreement - a standard term is not enough. There is no statutory requirement to obtain an electrical safety certificate and therefore if the agents wish to obtain one this is a matter between them and the landlord. The landlord has a duty to mitigate his costs at common law and subject as above I can see no reason your niece should pay the same.

 

Is there anything above I can clarify for you?

 

 

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Thank you I fully understand her position now. I just find it hard to believe that landlord can ask niece to pay fees for finding a new tenant? I maybe mis reading the email sent by letting agent to niece but to me it says she has to pay this fee even if she pays rent up until tenancy ends April 2014.
I think my niece has decided to relocate abroad as new job starts in 3 months and she'll continue paying rent up until April or new tenant moves in which ever comes first but surely she won't have to pay fees for landlord to find new tenant after her tenancy ends?
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.

I don't see that they are saying that. The fees are only payable if she wishes to leave the tenancy earlier than the fixed term and my reading of the email does not suggest that they are asking for fees other than in the circumstances. certainly none would be payable unless she were to leave prior to the end of the term.

the rationale behind paying fees is that your needs leaving early amounts to a breach of contract in contract law and the law is intended to place the landlord in the position he would have been but for her breach of contract. if she leaves early, the landlord has to you pay the agent a further fee to find a new tenant and so on and he is reasonably entitled to claim such costs.

if she is still there at the end of the tenancy, although the agents will probably tell you otherwise, she fact needs to give no notice at all to move out and can simply leave without any notice whatsoever however in practice, it is better to advise the agents a month or more before the end of the tenancy that she is not staying.

 

having said all of the above, I would still be inclined to have the agents send her a signed copy of the tenancy agreement she signed originally and the renewal notice she signed. The reason for this is that I note the agent refers to the fact that she is now too late to give notice which leads me to suspect there may be some sort of break clause they are referring to. They have kindly advise that you cannot see any evidence of a break clause, because of this comment from the agents of nothing else, if it were me, I would wish to satisfy myself as to the exact terms of the document I signed rather than take it on faith from the agents in whom I generally have very little faith

Does the above answer all your questions or is there anything I can clarify or help you with any further?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
My sister just contacted me with the below although I doubt it changes anything but please let me know.

The first line of original AST agreement which niece signed states

At month 10 of the tenancy the tenant may give two months notice to quit in writing on rent day.

Below this it states the same for landlord.

It seems the renewal letter she signed has changed to basically 6 months notice, as she signed that then I presume there's not much more she can do?

Just to clarify a tenant does not have to have a full signed agreement each time they extend tenancy? A renewal letter is legal?
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.

Do you have the exact wording amended by the provision from the renewal notice you can give me or is the above the exact wording?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
The above is the exact wording from 2012 agreement the renewal we don't have niece has asked on numerous occasions for a copy, she remembers letting agent coming to do inspection in April and they brought renewal with them, they asked her to sign it which she did, they took it with them . Niece finally went into letting agents after not receiving her copy of renewal and they gave her what she thought was new AST but when she got home she saw it was an unsigned AST from 2012.

I've replied to above email on nieces behalf asking for copies of all relevant documents and after receipt of them she'll inform them of how she wishes to proceed, as yet no reply
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
IT is clearly an agent hash at trying to write a break clause themselves. However although it is very badly drafted if that is the exact wording, unfortunately it does not help because it clearly says "on a given date" as opposed to "after a specific date. this is a break clause but according to the wording, it can only be exercised on one specific date during the tenancy agreement, namely the beginning of the sixth month of the tenancy agreement which from what you say has passed and so unfortunately, does not assist.

If I can assist any further as the situation develops please do not hesitate to revert to me. If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me though.
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 24292
Experience: LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
Joshua and 4 other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Thank you I appreciate all your help. I may need your services again once we hear back from letting agent and finally receive copies of renewal etc.
I will now leave feedback

Thanks again
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Hi Joshua
My niece has had the following returned to her from letting agent, it's a copy of renewal. We are struggling with item 4 could you please clarify
Thank you


Sorry tried coping but wouldn't work here is item 4

4 At month FOUR of the tenancy, the Landlord or Tenant may give Two Months notice to quit in writing on rent day

Does this mean only on 1 day out of the whole tenancy my niece can give two months notice?
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
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Customer: replied 6 months ago.
As they've actually written a day ' rent day'
I assume they'll use this as meaning only on that day which is ridiculous but it seems if this is the case having written a set day during fourth month our hands are tied.

A few months back my niece asked how much notice she needs this was before August and she was informed it had to be by august 31st, strange as rent day is the 25th of each month
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
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Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Ok thank you very much for your advice much appreciated
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Sorry just need to check one last thing
I understand my niece is liable to pay fees to find new tenant and resisting property but apart from that is there anything else apart from property damage that they can ask for?
I'm worried they'll try and gain more money from her they've already said she has to pay for electric check but I know she's not liable for that.
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
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Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Joshua replied 6 months ago.
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