Moving out of AST early, need help to negotiate with landlord

Hi all,
I hope I’m asking in the right place!

I have recently renewed my AST contract (12 month) as my agent was adamant this is the only tenancy contract they are offering. A few months later I bought my first flat, and I need to move out early.

My contract is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract (housing act 1996), with no break clause. The fixed period ends in 6+ months from now. The flat is in London.

Last time I asked the agent “what happens if I need to leave early”, they told me that I would be charged 10% of the rent till the end of the contract to cover the administration fees.
But when I gave them notice of my intent to leave early, they gave me the (additional) landlords terms to accept the end of the tenancy. The terms include:

  • I will be paying rent in full and all bills until a new tenancy is agreed.
  • The flat will be managed and advertised by the same agency.
  • I also pay the 10% of the rent for the remaining of the contract (as stated in the contract)

Although these were not stated anywhere in the contract (and came to my surprise) I though it was reasonable to accept these, as it was my fault for leaving early, and I should not cause any damage to the Landlord or the agency.

My current situation is I’ve moved in my new flat one month ago. The previous flat is empty and cleaned since then, but I still have the keys, and I’m still paying rent + bills in full. The flat is on the market for 2 months now but it barely gets a viewing or 2 per week.

The problem is that my pre-covid rent is too high now, and nobody want to move in. The rents have gone down, and there is not much interest from potential renters at this time, due to unemployment, Covid, Brexit, uncertainty etc. I even tried to advertise it with friends and social media but no turnover, the price is just too much, and the competition is crazy.

I have notified them of the current market situation and my concerns of not being able to find a new tenant any soon. I also provided evidence of other similar flats of better value in the same area, that are let for the same price or lower. On top of that I urged them to lower the rent price, offering to cover the difference until the end of the contract, so the landlord would suffer no damage at all. Our last communication was that the landlord is not available and we’ll hear from them in two weeks or so.

I’m running out of patience and savings. I just cannot pay rent + mortgage + 2 council tax and bills for two flats for 6 months. And I don’t think it’s fair either: The money the landlord would lose by renting it 50 pounds lower for the next 12 months, is significantly less than the money I pay each 1 or 2 weeks that the flat is empty but on my name.

If our AST ended today, they would still have to lower the rent to meet competition, and reality would hit them in the face faster. But since they have me paying everything, they are feeling comfortable to wait for a unicorn, a new tenant who’s OK to pay this overpriced rent. They are using this wishful thinking strategy on my expense.

I have asked Citizens advice and they told me I have no way out of this situation.

Do I have any negotiating power over this? Should I keep trying to reason with them, or am I just wasting time and money? Maybe I should hire Saul Goodman to give some legal advise to leave the keys and dare them to sue me?

Just to be clear, I do not want to do anything illegal, or cause any damage to the Landlord, I’d much prefer to find a reasonable and responsible way to get out of this situation, but I can’t help feeling I’m being used.

Any advise, either legal or negotiation-related, is welcome

Sorry to hear this, but you are legally bound by the contract. The landlord could insist on the full rent for the remainder of the term.

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