FTB on AST, letting agent asking us to sign for another 6 months

AST in England which expires on 31 August 2023.

Letting agency has been in touch this week to ask how we wish to proceed. Current AST is 6 months (in fact been in the property for 2 years, inital 12 months, and then two subsequent 6 months AST), always paid rent in full on time, and kept the house in good condition, so asked if we could go month to month once this AST ends. (Not least because we’re FTB and have just had an offer accepted to buy a house).

Letting agent immediately came back and said, “the landlord is happy to accept a term of 6 months which is the shortest term we can extend for.” Given that the landlord is overseas, guess the letting agent said that to earn their fee on a new AST.

  1. If we don’t sign a new AST, we expect the letting agent to advise the landlord to serve us a S.21. Can they do so immediately (today, hence why they are asking two months remaining what are plans are), or will they only be able to serve a S.21 on the last day of our current AST?

  2. We understand we will need to continue paying the rent once our AST ends and we go on a month to month tenancy, but could the landlord raise the rent once our AST ends?
  3. How can we politely decline the letting agent's offer to sign a new 6-month AST at the end of the current one, as we only want to give notice once we have completed the sale?
  4. Once the AST expires do we have to allow the letting agent into the property for their inspection or to arrange viewings before we give notice? Each time we have signed a new AST, the letting agent always insist on a visual inspection throughout the house.

Any other advice for FTB nearing the end of an AST. Thanks in advance!

I agree it does sound like the letting agent renews the tenancy just so they can charge a fee.

  1. They can’t issue a S21 during the fixed term period. This practice is what gives landlords a bad name when it is the agents that are driving this practice.
  2. Continue to pay the rent.
  3. Tell them straight you intend to leave within 6 months so you don’t want to commit to another 6 months. As soon as your plans are finalised you will give adequate notice.
  4. They have a right to do periodic inspections but they can’t do viewings until you have given notice to leave. The landlord can serve notice on you but you do not have to leave until an eviction order is granted by the courts and this usually takes around 6 months. They can increase the rent though…
1 Like

As the fixed term expires 31 August, the agent can now serve a s21 notice to expire after that date. However, if you are buying a place, you can dictate terms to a large extent. Just let them know this and that you won’t be renewing and will let the tenancy go periodic. They can’t prevent this. Once the s21 notice expires, you should contact the agent again and give them an update on when you will be leaving and suggest they don’t waste money on a court case.

1 Like

You say the landlord is overseas, but do you have a way to contact them direct? It may be that they have no knowledge of this 6mth minimum condition, and would be perfectly happy to go periodic)

One hears stories of agents playing both sides of the equation

I have had nothing but bad experiences with agents (as a landlord), and now do it all through Open Rent


Appreciate your reply.

In the event that the landlord (most likely at the letting agent’s urging) does increase the rent once our AST ends and we go month to month, don’t we still have the right to agree to the rent increase? If we don’t agree to an increase, is our only option to move out by the next month?

Unfortunately we don’t have a direct contact and it’s likely the letting agent is using the fact the landlord is overseas to their advantage.

It’s the first (and hopefully last) time we ever rent via a letting agent and not direct with the landlord. Previous experiences renting direct from a landlord have never been an issue, especially once they know we pay rent on time and look after the house as if it were our own.

1 Like

Yes you can challenge a rent increase if you deem it to be unreasonable by putting it to a rent review body. In these times of cost of living crisis and high inflation the landlord could easily justify a double digit percentage rent increase. So you are likely to lose.

You could of course submit the rent increase to a rent review just frustrate the system as the rent increase won’t take effect until the review has been completed and the rent set. Apparently, this can take a few months, in which case you will be long gone.

In your situation I would just accept any reasonable rent increase as it will only be for a couple of months and continue with the same tenancy agreement on a rolling month to month.

If the landlord serves notice on you to leave, any legal eviction will need to go through the courts and this will take a good few months and again you will be long gone.

1 Like

As a FTB do you know if the sellers have somewhere to go? Chains do collapse and you can easily find yourself back at the start so your decision on the AST should be driven by the certainty (if any) of your purchase going through.

The only advantage of a new AST is to fix the rent for the length of the AST. Letting it lapse to periodic gives you flexibility to move but may make the LL nervous. If you were to go to rent review, you’d have to provide some information on similar rents locally so do you have a reasonable rent you want to keep or are you happy that a rent review would not increase the rent by much.

IMHO there will be a few chains collapsing as banks start to make affordability checks on the people in any chain. It’s not going to be pleasant out there so good luck.

1 Like

You have to formally challenge the increase through the First Tier Tribunal, but you should be aware that the Tribunal can then set the rent higher or lower than the landlord asks and will do this based on their assessment of the current market rent for the property. Rents have increased a lot, so do your homework before you challenge.

1 Like

Valid point, certainly worth considering. Appreciate you taking the time to reply.

Thanks for the further detail. Will keep it in mind, but hopefully the landlord is happy with how things are (previously never had any issues, just in this case being the first instance of dealing with a letting agent).

Informed the letting agent that we didn’t want to sign for another six months and would continue on a month-to-month basis at the end of the AST.

As expected (it took the agent longer than we thought it would), the agent has emailed, ‘The landlord has instructed us to serve notice to end the tenancy. This will be served today and will expire in 2 months, being 07/10/2023. If I can be of any help, please let me know.’

Given that our AST ends on 31 August, should this not have been the date they gave us the two months’ notice (not today’s date)? As such, has the agent failed to follow the necessary procedure?

I understand there is a specific form for Section 21 (form 6A), which the agent hasn’t used nor made any mention of Section 21; as such, do we ignore this email?

In the last 20 minutes, we’ve received a further email confirming a check-out inspection for 12 October; again, is it best to respond or ignore this email? We have yet to confirm a date for the house purchase completion, although searches, mortgage applications, etc, are progressing.

I really appreciate any help you can provide.

Don’t think there is any merit in pointing out any errors by the Agent.

s21 doesn’t end occupancy, only the agreement (if done properly)

Would wait and see. If push comes to shove you could negotiate by offering to sign a deed of surrender at a mutually suitable date. This would avoid the s21 hassle for the LL - but keep that offer until you have a firm purchase date.

Surprised if you are good tenants, the LL would want to start the s21 process and the hassle it comes with. Perhaps cutting the Agent out of any discussion might help resolve the issue.

‘Perhaps cutting the Agent out of any discussion might help resolve the issue.’
This is the crux of the matter. Unfortunately, we don’t have direct contact details for the LL.
Suspect the fact the letting agent has recently listed a similar property near us for a noticeable amount more than what we are currently paying could be their motivating factor.

The agent has now served us a Form 6A, which they hand-delivered. It says we need to leave by 7 August.

Given that our AST ends on 31 August, should this not have been the date they gave us the two months’ notice (not today’s date)? As such, is the notice invalid?

Though there are errors in the way the s21 process is being handled, an error does not make the whole notice invalid. A judge could look at each error and see what effect it has such as the late presentation of the 6A. It will depend on the judge on the day.

As mentioned, the s21 ends the Tenancy Agreement (on the date the judge decides is applicable). It could be argued 2 months notice from the day the 6A was handed to you, so 7th October say. That date is the earliest opportunity for the Agent to apply for Possession and a hearing could be 2 months later or more. Once Possession is granted, eviction can only happen by court appointed bailiffs and that could be 4-6 months in addition - so 2 plus 2 plus 4-6.

So the whole s21 process is riddled with pitfalls for the LL. You can check if there are any other Agent errors by looking at the s21 checklist on the Nearly Legal website.

The hurdles that courts put in the way of any legal process are the court’s way of saying “try to find alternatives before you come here”. Courts are not a solution for poor practices by Agents. You can see the same sort of hurdles in Family Law, Employment Law and Social Welfare tribunals.

Also if it does come to a Possession hearing, there will be free legal advice available from whoever has the Legal Aid Contract locally to you. Possession Hearings tend to be grouped on a particular weekday and the legal advisors will sit in the waiting room. If you are concerned about the process, email your local county court and ask which practice has the Legal Aid contract for possession hearings and ask them for advice. They may not be able to answer you until you have a notice of the hearing but should signpost you to an advice centre. Or use the Shelter chat service on the Shelter website.

Good luck with house purchase. It’s stressful but at least you’ll not have to worry about s21’s any more.

1 Like

When your fixed term ends a periodic tenancy on the same terms will arise automatically. The agents notice must be a minimum of 2 months but can be longer. On the face of it the s21 notice is correct, but you can check it by googling the “Nearly Legal s21 flowchart”.

1 Like

@EmanNeercs @David122 Thanks both for taking the time to provide insightful replies. Looking forward, not so much not having to rent but never dealing with letting agents again.