I have a house rented to 4 tenants on a joint AST. They are international students and are paying via a scholarship. One of the tenants has informed me on the 3rd week of March that he has been offered another job and needs to leave the country 5 months before the end of the contract (the contract has no break clause). He suggested that I should cancel the contract and return his deposit to him in full. I informed him that he is still liable for the rent and if he doesn’t pay his share then his housemates will be liable for it as they are on a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house.
He didn’t reply for a couple of weeks then a few days ago he phones me to tell me that he is already back in his country and that I should just take the deposit (5 weeks rent) and forget about the rest of the rent (5 months outstanding). I explained that my sole income comes from the rent and I also have mortgage, bills and maintenance fees to pay (their rent includes all bills) and was trying to speak with him about coming up with a payment plan. He tells me that it is force majeure at a worldwide level due to the pandemic and their government has ordered that all students should return back home which is why he left. Strangely enough his housemates who are also students from the same country are still living in the house and paying full rent. He was quite aggressive during the telephone conversation and even hung up on me.
He sent a demanding email later on to say that I had two options:
1- to take the deposit and forget about the rent
2- to make an appeal to court and we will go to an international arbitration and apparently if he wins he will make a counterclaim 3 times more than his deposit.
I feel that this tenant is really taking advantage of the situation. He was offered a prestigious job and is now using the pandemic situation from getting away from paying his rent. I would prefer not to speak to him over the phone again as his tone is quite aggressive and tries to threaten me. I would like to find a solution that works for all parties so any advice would be much appreciated.
Point two is a bluff. I would take his deposit. Inform the others sadly they are liable. pity you never posted his name and country origin. I would forget about him maybe find another to help the others share stay low in cost .This is a hazard of being a landlord. reference another one quickly .its only £20 cheap enough as pointed out by a very sweet man called John
Hi Colin, thanks for your reply. I already offered to him that if we can find a replacement we’d be happy to let him go. However there’s not really a chance of finding a tenant in the current climate especially as the universities have been shut.
I’d prefer not to forget about him just like that as it also sets a precedent for the others. If I let the situation go easily then the others may think they can just leave without paying the rent too. With university closures it’s quite likely that they will move it sooner than the end of the contract.
Hi Jose .yes I get that ,it is very annoying… if he has left and not in this country how can you chase him? this is really difficult and costly. This will be happening all over the country we will all be affected and it will be difficult to ride the storm. Wish you the best.
It’s interesting how a tenant can just pick up and leave in the middle of coronavirus and the landlord get lumped with the problem and the financial stress and difficulty. But the landlord cannot do this. There is no two-way street here. It’s all in One Direction.
Amy8 this has always been so thats why I limit the type of person I will rent to… Sad for those who are okay. Certain groups generally are more risky, sad for those who are ok in those groups ,but thats life… It has now become us and them, the goverment are wholly responsible for this as they have swung the penulum too far, because they have sold off lots of council houses for short term gain
Yes, they NEVER should have sold off council housing. The thing is that this crisis is hitting everyone, no matter if good tenants. As you’ve probably seen my post before, I have really decent people in my flat who are hard workers, graduated from university, and they could easily pay the rent on their combined incomes. And have always paid on time. I interview all my tenants. I don’t use an agency. So I know pretty much if I’m getting a good tenant or not. I have never had a problem with A tenant before this crisis. I finally wrote to them stating that I needed to let them know that I would not be reducing their rent by the amount that they’ve asked for. I stated the reasons. One being that one of them earns 45K a year still. The other being: they have a guarantor. The other being that they have savings. I made it clear that I wanted to help them but That reducing the rent By a massive amount was not the way forward.
I’m not sure what I would do in the case in this thread. You will never see the rent because they’ve moved back home in another country. But option 2 is definitely a bluff.
The Joint AST covers this; the other tenants are liable for the whole rent. Pointless trying to pursue him, just keep his deposit. Tell the others how much they will now need to pay each month to cover the full household rent and give them the option of finding a suitable replacement for him. 9 times out of ten they will find someone else.
Do you think it’s possible to find someone during a lockdown? I think it’s highly unlikely especially as the universities have now closed.
Hi Jose, Sorry to hear you’re going through this!
It’s worth remembering that in a joint AST, all tenants are jointly and severally liable to pay the rent. That means that any of the remaining tenants could also be pursued for the whole of the rent. This would be hard if they all left the UK, but if even one remained, then you could pursue them for unpaid rent. I agree with Tina that replacing the tenant would usually be best, but it will b hard to find someone to move in with strangers during a lockdown.
It’s their problem to find someone else or to pay the full contract rent. If you make that perfectly clear to them they will try hard to find someone or they may have some influence on the missing tenant and force him to repay them. Do not take it on yourself to find another person.
Kevin Smalley (for Tina)
Thanks everyone. It’s a bit of a tricky situation because if I pursue the other tenants for the rent then it could go both ways: (1) they put pressure on the missing tenant or (2) they also decide to leave the country sooner than the end of the contract. If I dont put pressure on them they could think that it is ok to just leave without paying the outstanding rent (I know one of them is already planning on going back in May). I guess it is about finding the balance.
Does anyone know much about debt collection agencies? Do you have any advice?