Hi there, I'm new to the forum and am hoping that someone can help shed some light on a very awkward situation we find ourselves in.
My wife and I are tenants. We signed a 12 month fixed term AST Agreement with a 6 months Break Clause on 06/12/10. Prior to signing the agreement we had discussed with the LA the importance of having a 6 month break clause included in the contract as we needed the flexibility to leave after 6 months if a more suitable property came up. The oral agreement we made with the LA (both prior to signing the agreement and again when we actually signed it) was that we could end the tenancy agreement and vacate the property after the initial 6 month period by providing the LA/LL with 1 month's notice. It was also agreed that the LA/LL could provide us with 2 month's notice if they wished us to vacate after the initial 6 months.
When we came to sign the agreement there was no 6 month break clause included in the contract which we pointed out to the LA. She said "no problem" and having confirmed again with us the 'terms' she handwrote in "6 months break clause" after the entry "12 month fixed term" and initialled it, as did both my wife and I. The mistake we made (in hindsight!) is that we did not insist that the LA write into the contract the terms of the 6 month break clause we'd agreed.
A short while ago we located another property to move into and decided to hand our notice in here. Being at the 9 month mark we believed there would be no problem handing in our 1 month notice as agreed in order to vacate at the beginning of October. I even rang and spoke to the LA just prior to doing so (3 or 4 weeks ago now) and she confirmed once again over the phone to me that the terms (above) were correct. On that basis we handed in our written notice but shortly afterwards received a call from the LA (a different one now - who'd taken over the previous one's role)saying that the original LA had been mistaken in telling us that we could leave any time after 6 months. She said that the 6 month break clause meant we could only leave at the 6 month point by providing 2 months prior notice (i.e. at the 4 month point) and since we had not exercised the clause we had to see out the full 12 month term.
Unfortunately other than the oral agreement made with the LA when we signed the Agreement (which of course we are arguing is also legally binding) and the written inclusion of the words "6 month's break clause" there are no other terms/conditions included. There is no reference anywhere in the contract to any required notice periods whatsoever though even with regards to the 12 month term.
Basically it now seems to be a case of their word against ours...and unfortunately & rather dishonestly they have gone back on their word!
When I pointed out to the 'new' LA that the terms of the 6 month break clause had been agreed with previous LA (who was the authorised agent at that time)and that there was nothing in our contract which either contradicted our agreement, or indeed supported her explanation of the 6 month break clause, she said that that was irrelevant. She also said that in the absence of any explicit explanation of the 6 month break clause in the contract that 'standard practise' would prevail...which according to her was the one opportunity to leave at 6 months exactly or not at all. Of course I know that that is rubbish, and that it is as much 'standard practise' to structure a 6 month break clause along the lines we originally agreed with the LA.
Anyway, we are now in a stalemate with the LA insisting we are liable for the rent until the 5th December (and she'll pursue us legally if leave and don't pay up) and we are standing our ground & insisting that an agreement was made which lawfully allows us to leave 2 months early.
I'd be grateful for anyone's comments or advice as to how best we should handle this.. We have spoken with a lawyer who thinks we have a good chance of winning our case should it go to court, but obviously it is in nobody's best interest to go that far...although we would if we had to.
Thank you in advance for your help.