Hey! Any bored law students out there? I'm having a bit of a dilemma with my upcoming housing contract!
Long story short, in December, the landlords I was using made us sign for the next lease period ( September 2012 to July 2013 ) in December, I can no longer live at the house and there's a clause in the contract saying (something to the effect of) 'To cancel this agreement, give the landlord one month's notice in writing.
I've done this and the landlord rings me up and goes 'you can't do this' without much in the way of explanation short of 'you just can't'. I figure he's just trying to strong arm me, so I'm not that surprised.
The big issues is that whilst you've got your standard contract clauses ( 1. blah, blah, blah 1.1 blah blah blah) all numbered. nice and neat, at the top, before the clauses start they've written ( again, paraphrased ) 'YOU CAN'T GET OUT, THERE'S NO WAY TO GET OUT, YOU HAVE TO FIND A REPLACEMENT'. A few people have told me that because it's not numbered or with the rest of the contract, it's a bit iffy, on top of that it contradicts the clause that says I *can* get out if I give them a month's notice.
If you guys need to, I can give more information, including the actual wording on the contract, but what do you guys think? Is the landlord just pulling standard strongarm tactics and trying to take me for a mug?
It doesn't matter whether its numbered or handwritten or so on. If it was on the contract when you signed it it legally forms part of the contract. The big issues are:
1) Does it conflict with another term of the contract? It sounds like it says BOTH that you can leave with one months' notice and that you can't, which is contradictory. This could mean the interpretation of the contract is unclear.
2) Are the terms of the contract unfair? Possibly. The standard inferred term for a periodic tenancy (which you don't have, if you have a contract) is that a tenant can terminate with one months' notice. But that would be overriden by the contract you signed.
Generally, the contract is the be all and end all. You probably have a fair case for arguing either that the contract is unclear or that the terms are unfair, but do you want to take that risk?
Its always an option to just move out, cancel your direct debit, move all your stuff out and hope the landlord doesn't take court action for the rent until the end of the contract. Of course, you wouldn't get your deposit back, you wouldn't get a good reference, and you may end up with a court order for the rent.
A better option would probably be to try and find a replacement housemate to take your place in September. That way the landlords have no complaint against you, they are getting their money, they will be happy. Try registering your home on student housing websites, you've still got a few months, there's bound to be some stragglers still looking for a room.
If you do decide to just moveout I'd really recommend you go to the Citizens Advice Bureau for some advice first. They know an awful lot about your housing rights and will be able to give you the best advice. Shelter also had an email for advice, last I checked. It may take a couple of weeks to get a response, but they are very thorough, I've used them myself in a dispute with a landlord.
I was kind of worried that was the case, that it was 'part' of the contract. Ah well.
Still, I'll go into more information if I can get your thoughts on the matter, the unnumbered bit at the top reads 'There is no 'get out' clause in this contract, if you decide to leave and break the contract, then you have to find someone to replace you. Please note, this is your responsibility'. Which is fair enough and makes it pretty explicit that I should be looking for a replacement.
It says, later, '9.2 the tenant may end this agreement by giving the landlord at least one month notice in writing that he will give up possession of the property on a date specified in the notice'. Now, I've obviously provided a lot more than a month's notice that I want to terminate this contract before it even begins (September 20th 2012), are the landlords out of order by saying I can't add it?
I've taken the matter to both CAB and Shelter, but both have told me that they can't be certain as they didn't really understand the contract ( which I guess gives me grounds for taking the 'unclear contract' argument ).
To be quite honest, in these situations; legal rights don't normally come into it. Both the landlord and the tenant just do what they want and although there are legal processes that can be undertaken - they rarely are because it would be inconvinient, lengthy and possibly costly for either side.
In other words - you can just move out and withhold any further rent and on the other side of the coin - your landlord can withhold your deposit.
Therefore - the pragmatic solution is to line up a replacement. The landlord will be happy since the rent will be covered and he will have to give you the deposit back if he has someone else in there. Everyone will be a winner.
(Original post by Vohamanah)
Of course, you wouldn't get your deposit back, you wouldn't get a good reference, and you may end up with a court order for the rent.
I have never heard of property references ever being followed up on and they are rarely even asked for these days (maybe some landlords/agencies will mention it in an ad but it is rarely asked for in practice).
Either they will go the whole hog and ask for a credit check or else just take your word (and deposit!).