To charge or not to charge?

by Readers Question

10:33 AM, 19th October 2020
About a month ago

To charge or not to charge?

Make Text Bigger
To charge or not to charge?

I own and manage a small HMO and rent the individual rooms on an AST of 6 months. In August a new tenant moved in, 7 weeks into her contract she told me she was now on the shortlist to move to a council flat, and she hoped to be moved out by the end of September, but would pay October’s rent.

She asked how flexible I was in regard to her having to pay for the whole term.

I reminded her that she had signed for 6 months (with her niece as guarantor (due to her being out of work)) but I would do my utmost to find a tenant from that moment onwards and hopefully the end of October to help her in her predicament.

This is my sole income.

I advertised the room at a competitive rate, but have only a little interest. One tenant informed me that she had Covid-19 last week so halted viewings and currently relying solely on my video tour.

I contacted my tenant this week to find out exactly when she would be moving out, she advised me that she had already moved out (on 6th October), and what should she do with the keys.

My questions are –
1. If I take the keys back, does that mean I deem the tenancy has finished?
2. Is it reasonable for me to expect the lady to pay rent until a new tenant is found?

Thank you in advance
Sez


Share this article

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

Comments

Roger P

10:46 AM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

Its reasonable to charge up to the point your new tenant moves in then deduct any lettings costs, remember she's in breach of contract not you

SARAH UPTON

11:01 AM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Roger P at 20/10/2020 - 10:46
Thanks for your response.

Ian Narbeth

11:22 AM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

Hi Sez
You are right to be cautious about taking keys back. If you have a duplicate set then I would leave the keys with the tenant for the time being. If you have to take them back then I would get it agreed in writing that the tenant is not surrendering and you are not taking a surrender, that the keys are being left with you to arrange viewings and that the tenant can return to the property at any time and have the keys back.

Make it clear to the tenant that she continues to be responsible for the rent. Write to the guarantor as well, copying her on all correspondence sent and received. It is perfectly reasonable to expect rent to be paid until the earlier of the tenancy ending and a new tenant being found.

If the tenant does not pay rent on the due date, you should immediately notify the guarantor and make demand of her. That way the tenant will realise you are not a soft touch.

Paul Maguire

11:50 AM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

I'd give her some leeway as she's not tried to cheat you or wrecked the property but her situation has changed and she's trying to survive without a job. Alternatively you could hound her through the collapsing Court system and make both of your lives a misery.

psquared

11:57 AM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

I had this very situation. I explained tobthe tenant that he was liable for a further 4months but as a compromise i would accept half rent till the end of the term. And if i got a new tanant in the meantime i would refund the difference.
He happily paid me just under £800 to end the tenancy.
2 weeks later it was let and I refunded him the balance less my costs . happy faces all round.
Wont work every time but maybe worth a go?

Nick Faulkner

12:00 PM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

I am sure that Paul Maguire's suggestion is the correct one.Legally you may have right to pursue her and perhaps in the end you may get some of the money due back.But what is sure if you go down that route there will be heartache and hassle for both of you. You have to face the fact you are in a no-win situation and getting out with the least stress will be the most beneficial to you. You will have the moral high ground and the goodwill, for what it is worth, of your former tenant....you can't win so follow the old show business motto "leave 'em laughing"

Mike

13:07 PM, 20th October 2020
About a month ago

I would be more than happy to take her offer for paying rent for October and let her go, get the keys back and get her to sign a surrender papers, and move on, despite having a guarantor, suppose the guarantor does not pay up either? so no point falling in dispute that might end up costing you more, suppose she don't return keys or sign surrender agreement? then what? Are you then going to have to serve her a 6 months Notice and wait for a court hearing and then wait further for the bailiffs to end the tenancy legally for you to move in a new tenant?
So take what she is offering you and let her go peacefully, why complicate it more when you know its not easy out there for us all.

SARAH UPTON

21:21 PM, 21st October 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 20/10/2020 - 11:22
Thank you very much for your help

Landlord Phil

14:04 PM, 24th October 2020
About a month ago

Ok, let's look at this another way. Imagine you had a job, and that was your sole source of income. Your employer says, for whatever reason, I'm going to cut a percentage off your wages for a few months. You've done nothing wrong & your performance is fine. You've obeyed the rules and took the job 7 weeks ago, at the agreed salary. How would you feel? Would it look to you like the employer was always intending to do it? Or maybe you'd think that the employer was incredibly short sighted? Either way I would imagine you'd be more than a bit put out. The situation you are in is directly comparable.

The point is she signed a contract then took action to cause the breaking of that contract. It shows a total lack of respect towards you & the legal document she signed. Legally she is liable to pay the full amount. Legal precedent exists for a reason. Setting a precedent of agreeing that the contract is more flexible than it states makes a mockery of the contracts the other tenants have signed. Trust me, word will get around & quite soon you could find yourself looking for a complete set of new tenants. They will come in gradually & word will be passed on that you're a soft touch.

About the keys, I agree with the comment that you shouldn't take the keys back to an extent. But you need to weigh up the possibility that you may or may not win a court case. I can almost guarantee that it will go that far. I've never in my 11 years had a guarantor just tip up 4 months rent. There's no incentive to pay. The worst that can happen is a magistrate will rule in your favour. Even if they stash away the money each month, there will be funds to pay it if the ruling goes your way. If they're daft enough not to, they get a CCJ, which doesn't seem to bother some people. Odd I know but it's a fact.

Then there's the court case. Can you be bothered? Or are prepared for the expense? I have a policy of always going to court. I've always won, but not everyone does. There's a possibility that your pre tenancy documentation may not have been spot on. If you choose the court route, make sure everything around the tenancy was spot on.

A risky but half way strategy would be to enter into a legal agreement that allows the return of the keys on the understanding that the AST will run until you have a new tenant, leaving the payment due only for the balance. It would need to be a legal document drawn up by a professional though. To do this, the relationship between you, the tenant & the guarantor would need to remain good throughout.

Above all, it has to be your choice based on the factors we can't glean from online posts.

Good luck. I hope it works out for you.

Jan Martin

14:30 PM, 24th October 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Paul Maguire at 20/10/2020 - 11:50
The tenant obviously knew what her intentions were . So she isnt squeaky clean .Its up to the landlord how she feels about the situation and how she moves on with this but I feel whatever the landlord decides she shouldnt just bow down . If you wanted to pursue through the courts you have many years in which to do this .At the end of the day you rented this property in good faith . Whatever is decided I hope it all works out .

1 2

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

Deposit scheme £ mistake?

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More