OpenRent Community

I'm hoping someone can help me with a tricky situation

Hello. I’m hoping someone can help me with a really tricky situation.

I started renting a room in a 3 bedroom flat in March this year. The 3 people occupying the flat now moved in to the flat between January and April 2020. The previous AST tenancy looks to have expired in Feb 2019 for the previous tenants and must have rolled to a periodic tenancy.

There’s a few issues:

  1. Our landlord has not provided us with a new fixed term tenancy despite regular chasing
  2. It turns out that the last tenancy that was signed has different rent levels than what we have been told to pay this year - is this even legal? Are we entitled to any money back or is this seen as contract by conduct at this point?
  3. I don’t believe the previous tenancy was ever formally ended via formal notice though all the previous tenants named in the tenancy have vacated the property - can the new 3 tenants still be considered under the same periodic tenancy if the tenants are completely different?
  4. I’d like to leave the flat as the landlord won’t reduce rent and my salary has been impacted by covid and I can no longer afford the payments. The landlord is being very difficult and noted that I’d be liable to pay rent even after I leave if I don’t find a replacement. I have read on shelter website that tenants can stop this by formally ending the periodic tenancy. Can I do this despite not actually having a written contract with my name listed in it? Will this work if the other 2 tenants want to remain in the flat?

Thank you!

When landlords cut corners like this it is almost always they who suffer the consequences, not the tenant so I think you shouldn’t worry too much.

Your situation as I understand it is that you have replaced previous tenants in a property, but without any paperwork being issued. Correct me if I am wrong on this. Do you know if the previous tenants had a joint contract or individual contracts?

Just to deal quickly with your point 2. Its perfectly legal for a landlord to increase the rent and to do it informally. Once the tenants start paying it, it becomes legally binding.

My comments below are based on the information in your post and if this is inaccurate or incomplete then they may be wrong.

You have an undocumented but perfectly valid tenancy. Its not clear whether that’s a tenancy for your room only or a tenancy for the whole property, The landlord may argue that you are in a joint tenancy with the others and if there is any documentary evidence of this, (eg emails, advert etc) then he may or may not be successful if it ever came to court. However, it doesn’t really matter to you as its periodic and you are entitled to serve notice unilaterally. If he argued it was a joint tenancy, (probably not in his interest), then your notice would end the tenancy for all the tenants. In the absence of a written contract you would just serve the landlord or agent at their postal address with a written common law Notice to Quit of a minimum one month period, (assuming you pay rent monthly) expiring at the end of a period of your tenancy. This means that the notice would in practice be between 1 and 2 months. You have no obligation to find replacement tenants even if that was set as a condition of the tenancy. It would be regarded as an unfair contract term. As long as you leave by the time the notice expires you have no further legal obligation to this property or landlord, whatever they tell you to the contrary. If you paid a deposit then it almost certainly hasn’t been properly dealt with by the landlord and you should demand it back. If he refuses then you make it clear that you are prepared to claim a penalty against him of up to 3x the value of the deposit for breach of deposit legislation and you would win.

Good luck with all this and let us know how it goes.