Am I being unreasonable?

by Readers Question

11:50 AM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

Am I being unreasonable?

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Am I being unreasonable?

As readers of Property 118 are professionals, what opinions and advice can you offer on whether I’m being unreasonable in holding a widow to the terms of the tenancy agreement.

I own a modern retirement (over 55s) flat and for the last 5 years it has been rented to a lovely couple – model tenants in fact. They pay the rent largely from housing benefit with the shortfall made up by their daughter. I also have a guarantor for the AST. The tenancy was renewed on 6/9/2020 for a further 12 months.

The husband died from Covid last week and the daughter has written to me giving 2 months’ notice after which she expects her mother will have moved out due to ill health (can’t carry on living in the flat on her own) and has assumed the tenancy will then be ended.

I have said I am not prepared to do this as legally; I am entitled to receive the rent (£1100 per month) up to September 2021; if I agree to cancel the tenancy at the end of March, I will lose out on £5500 in rent unless I can re-let the flat quickly. Because over 55s is a very restricted market and most people who would be interested would be downsizing buyers rather than renters, it is quite possible that it could take me until September or even longer to find new tenants.

Am I being unreasonable by insisting that the rent is paid each month until September even though after March 31st, the widow won’t be living there? I’ve discussed this situation with a number of people and opinion is divided but while I feel sorry that a tenant has died and his widow needs to move out for health reasons, I don’t see why I should have to just accept a loss of up to £5500.

As readers of Property 118 are professionals, what opinions and advice can you offer?

Jonathan

Comments

The Forever Tenant

12:42 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

I'm not a landlord, so take my opinion for what you will.

Legally, you are absolutely in the right to charge rent right up until the end of the term.

Morally, not so much.

Here is a couple that have already given you in excess of £60,000, that have gone through personal tragedy. Now the widow has to downsize. Their finances would be in the toilet if you charged them and they had to pay rent on a new place. Probably getting less in benefits due to the death.

Be nice, let them go without charging them, get a new tenant as soon as you can. Don't be one of those landlords that so many people like to talk about on social media that proves landlords are only in it for the money.

James Nelson

14:22 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

The daughter sounds very organised. I doubt many would have the presence of mind to think about giving notice so soon in this situation.

John Mac

14:27 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

I think Deep Down you already know the Answer to the Question otherwise you wouldn't be asking it !!

Paul Maguire

14:29 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

It's not their fault if you're unable to get another tenant in the 2 months. Don't kick them when they're already down. I'm pretty sure that you already know the answer to your question.

Graham Bowcock

14:30 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

Personally, if I'd had a tenant die after 5 years, there would be no issue with surrendering the tenancy. I have had a similar thing happen and I let the widow go when she wanted (although admittedly not in an agre restricted property).

You operate in a niche market and these circumstances must be expected.

You will need a new tenant at some point, so in effect you're just bringing it forward.

The law would appear to be on your side, but it would seem harsh not to agree some compromise - could the family make a partial payment, for example? I suggest you talk to them without laying down the law; maybe explaing your own situation.

psquared

14:31 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

I am a portfolio landlord but I also believe in doing the right thing. If I had a model tenant who had tragic circumstances that was not their fault my human hat would overule my landlord hat.

How can you try to enforce a tenancy agreement after this poor woman has had her life ripped apart?

If letting her out of the contract would cause you genuine hardship then you need to go and talk to her and come to some resolution.....this is a time for compassion....if it would truly put you into hardship then see if she could pay a percentage of the rent enough to attract a new tenant at a very competitive rent.....if you can afford to absorb the loss then do the decent thing......yes there are tenants that just play the system and do everything to avoid paying but if this couple have looked after your property and paid the rent I believe you have at the very least a moral duty to help out. As landlords we have a huge responsibility to provide people with decent homes and just circumstances change for the tenant (through no fault of their own) then I like to think a lot of landlords would want to help out.

DGM

14:34 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

It is moral v legal dilemma.
I had a similar thing in that a young couple rented a house and renewed for another year, then a few months later split up.
They wanted to end the tenancy and we agreed if I can get a tenant in ASAP I will end the tenancy. Luckily there is high demand and was let out within 2 months.

You could propose a similar option, but as you say it is a niche market the may not help in letting it out quickly. The other option reduced rent until let out.

Morally let them go early, but that depends on your own financial standing, whether you could afford to lose the rent money.

John Frith

14:36 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

Put yourself in her shoes, and ask how you would feel if a landlord didn't show flexibility?
So many tenants "try it on", but when someone is, through no fault of their own in a difficult place, and trying to do the right thing?

Emma Wilks

14:36 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

This is an occasion where kindness and empathy should come before money.

Martin Roberts

14:40 PM, 25th January 2021
About a month ago

Personally I'd thank them for giving decent notice and let them go with good wishes for the future.

If they seek advice Shelter will likely suggest move out, keep the keys, don't pay rent.

That would cause big problems.

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