Leaving Early – I signed a new tenancy agreement last month and now I find I need to leave. My landlord says I owe him all of the rent – is he correct? I intend to drop the keys through the letter box and walk away.
Technically he is correct, yes. You signed a legally binding contract so you do owe the rent to the end of the term. However, you have several options:
- Speak to your landlord nicely – some landlords will release you without obligations, or you may be able to come to a cash settlement to, in effect, buy yourself out of your contract.
- If your landlord agrees you can find your landlord another suitable tenant (the landlord can object if the replacement is not suitable) and pay for the admin costs of re-letting.
- You can ask your landlord to re-let on your behalf whilst you still pay rent and you will usually have to pay for the reletting costs.
- You can just walk away. In which case the landlord has a right to sue for his losses.
Although not legally obliged to, landlords should try to minimise their losses, i.e., to re-let as soon as possible. He would then be entitled to charge you for all the re-letting expenses, plus any loss of rent for a void (vacant period). If the landlord fails to re-let you may well be asked for all of the rent.
Dropping the keys through the letter box is merely an invitation to the landlord to accept your surrender, not a surrender itself. Unless the landlord does something positive to indicate that he is accepting your surrender, in law you are still the tenant.
Rememeber also, if you leave the property empty you could face additional charges for the landlord’s insurance costs – insurance premiums go up when properties are vacant – read your tenancy agreement which should state that the property must not be left empty for more than 14 days or so.
Secondly, you are responsible for maintaining heating in the property, especially in cold weather. If there was a burst and a flood or any other damage to the property you could face a claim for damages from your landlord. You are also still responsible for utility bills and Council Tax when your agreement says so.
By taking on a legal tenancy and agreeing to pay rent for a period you have gained a legal interest in that property over and above the landlord’s legal title. That carries a responsibility which you cannot easily get out of.
Consider for one moment if the boot was on the other foot – would you accept it if the landlord suddenly decided to turf you out and change all the locks half way through your fixed term?
Note: never rely totally on these standard answers. Before taking action or not, always seek professional advice with the full facts of the case and all documents to hand. LandlordZONE.co.uk