Tenant requesting rent back once they moved out

This is a tricky one so bear with me. I sublet to 2 lodgers and recently paid an estate agent £250 to find a long term lodger. He found her, she moved in and after 2 months in the mid of March said she was moving out, no particular reason. She said she felt guilty and offered to pay rent until the end of April even though she’d be moving out sooner. She also offered to pay the estate agent to find someone as her replacement.

She did pay rent until end of April and moved out on 15th April, leaving the key and requesting deposit back, which I did immediately. After this I had a viewing witj a potential lodger that I myself arranged. This person luckily wanted to move in straight away, so he paid rent until end of April and the old lodger didn’t have to pay the estate agent as she had offered.

A day later she texted me to say that I owe her 2 weeks of rent as she was told by the second lodger that someone moved into her old room from the second lodger. She was very aggressive and making threats, saying I am committingfraud abd that this is illegal. I tried reaching out to the estate agent to help resolve this, but they are friends and he indicated he wants to stay out of it. I tried asking citizens advice, but the lady didn’t seem very knowledgeable in this and couldn’t give me an answer. This has all caused me lots of stress and has ultimately led me to decide I’m done with subletting, but now unsure if she is just trying to bully me into doing what she wants or whether she has a legal argument. I feel that she has returned her key, received her full deposit immediately and that she can’t claim the rest of the rent back after this - she chose to move out sooner and she chose to pay more as an act of compensation. So I’m now really unsettled with the threats she is making to take me to court and to report me as I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong. I even offered to pay her the difference between 2 weeks rent (£300) and estate agent fee (£250) which she didn’t have to pay because I found someone myself, but she refused to take £50 and continued with threats. I would appreciate any legal advice on where I stand. I obviously don’t wish to commit any acts of fraud or engage in illegal dealings, so I would really appreciate any clarification. Thanks in advance.

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I am not a lawyer but here’s my take anyway:
So the tenant moved out on April 15, paying the rent of £300 owed for the two weeks until end of month + promising to pay the agent fee to find a replacement tenant. But you found someone yourself so didn’t have to pay an agent a second time, and this new tenant moved in on April 16, yesterday? Paying until the end of the month. In this case you would have been paid twice for the same two weeks, and maybe gotten an additional £250 for the agent fee. Altogether £850 vs £300!

I’m sorry but I’m with the tenant on this one - thanks to your having found a replacement straight away, you got the rent owed so didn’t need the compensation. You didn’t have to pay an agent a second time, so didn’t need to be reimbursed for the agent fee. I think you should give the old tenant back the compensation rent minus any per diem for the day or days the room was unoccupied between the tenants, if there were any. And not expect her to pay you the agent fee.

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Thank you for reading this through and making an effort to write a comment and think about my situation. The tenant left the key and accepted the deposit, I assumed this was the end of the contractual relationship. So even with her paying over this period I don’t see how it’s her concern what I do with the room she is no longer accessing by her own choice.

And I didn’t save on estate agent fees, she did as I found someone instead of her paying for the service. The reason for her rent overpayment and offer to pay the estate agent to find her replacement was because she expressed guilt over leaving. I wouldn’t have paid the estate agent and wouldn’t have taken her in if she had said she was only moving in for 2 months. So there was a breach of verbal agreement which caused lots of stress for me.

So here’s my calculation: I paid the estate agent 250 for her moving in permanently. When she decided to move out I decided to give up the subletting as the stress felt too much. I had to stay in the house to work my own notice period with the owner of the house and it was highly unlikely I would have found someone for just a month of two. I could have been £1200 down, so I feel the context is more important here than the simple math. I was lucky to have found someone so quickly, but I could have easily been im red numbers due to agreement that wasn’t respected by this lady.

If you think this is really true, then you need to pursue the estate agent for breach of contract.

All you did was pay an estate agent to find a lodger. They did that. Job done.

No one moves into a property “permanently”.

Do you have a written contract committing her to making monthly payments for a particular period per month? If not, I can’t see how you have a claim, and even if you do, it’s questionable whether it’s ethical to pursue that considering how the situation resolved itself.

You are not out of pocket at all so what’s the basis of your complaint? I think you did the right thing in giving up subletting because it appears you want to charge a lodger for a loss you did not incur. The stress generated was entirely brought about by your insistence on doing that.

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Thank you for your input, I appreciate it. I did write to the estate agent and he doesn’t want to get involved (probably because the ex tenant and him are friends). He basically charged me his fee to bring in his friend. He advised me to seek independent advice and didn’t deny that we’d all agreed a long term arrangement or stated that my position was unjustified.

The ex tenant wouldn’t have offered to pay him to find someone else or pay rent until the end of the month had she not agreed in principle that there had been a breach of a clear verbal agreement between us. So extra rent was a gift of apology.

I think this is a similar situation as a badly behaved husband giving his watch to his wife as a sign of apology for overstepping, but then releasing rage and threats if the wife decided to divorce him and sell it. He gave it up and can’t state conditions on it afterwards, just ad the ex tenant demanded her deposit back and handed over the keys. I am really in two minds here, but also conscious that the level of aggressive threats over her retribution and slandering of my name are impacting my health. And yes, this money is extremely needed on my end, it’s not a caprice. Just as paying the estate agent was a major decision for me and I had to pay in instalments.

Ex tenant moving in to stay long term and out after two months was an act of caprice though. There was nothing wrong with the house or my attitude towards her that she identified as a reason, she just changed her mind abd wanted to apologise with extra rent and paying the estate agent in return.

So I don’t think it’s a black and white matter, citizens advice also couldn’t guve me a legal answer straight away due to her accepting the deposit, leaving the key and paying the full rebt with intent to leave sooner. I will think about it, but unfortunately can’t afford a solicitor so don’t really have an informed legal perspective. I am frateful for the input on the forum and for sharing your views.

I think this is probably the source of your issues. Without a contractural agreement to that effect, you’ve got no proof that this was ever the case nor can you define “long term” to defend your position.

The point isn’t whether you need the money or not. The point is whether you’re legally owed the money or not. I can’t see how you are. You yourself have called it “extra rent” and an “apology” for a potential loss which you did not subsequently incur. Had there been a void or you had needed to pay the agent to find another lodger, you would have a case. But neither happened.

What you should take away from this is that paperwork is vital if you are to have some form of accountability for actions in situations like this. Otherwise, it just becomes one person’s word against another.


Thank you Tatemono, I appreciate your advice and will consider this point as I make the decision.

Just an update in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation. I just got a call back from Citizens Advice and the lady said that the ex tenant doesn’t seem to have a legal claim as she ended the contractual agreement by returning the key and claiming the deposit back, so she is likely to lose in court. She did point out that the level of stress I am experiencing may not be worth all of this though, which I am starting to agree with.

you haven’t yet told us what that was. Was rent payable weekly or monthly, for example?

It was paid monthly. When she gave her notice she explained in writing that she will pay until the end of the month, even though she will be vacating the room sooner. She didn’t state any conditions on this, such as what she expects should happen if I rent it out to someone else after she had left. She gave me her key, vacated the property and requested her deposit, so I assumed this was the end of the contractual relationship and the advice I got from Citizens advice seems to support this.

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You are not allowed to charge twice for the same period, so I think shes right and would win at court. If you had left it empty you could have legitimately claimed rent for the full month, but not if you re-let it.

I don’t think you’ve yet told us that she wrote it down. That would support your case. But David is right, and as I said, you suffered no loss at all financially.

I guess the argument could be that I didn’t charge her for the extra two weeks, it was her choice to give me that as a retribution for not sticking to our agreement. She was clear in advance that she didn’t wish to stay for the whole period of time. So was it really rent if she moved out sooner as planned or was it a gift she now claims is rent? Also, she demanded her deposit back, which I wouldn’t have done if the contractual relationship was still ongoing. So she tricked me into thinking that we ended the agreement and that I can rent the room out.

I did incur damage - £250 from her friend the letting agent and lots of stress with her impulsive decisions around moving in for what she said wss an indefinite period, with plans of how she’ll redo the garden etc, and a U-turn of moving out after 2 months. I thought she was being kind in offering compensation by paying until the end of the month and suggesting to pay the estate agent. If stress from all of her changed decisions and current threats was quantified in money, I’d be in red numbers. Also, I could easily not have found anyone to replace her and would be incurring major loss. So it’s not as black and white.

I think I would have given her the money straight away as a good gesture if she kindly explained it was all a misunderstanding, but she exerted an aggressive attack immediately the next day, threatened to report me as committing fraud to my occupational environment, accused me of committing a crime, threatened serious legal retribution in an endless series of messages until I asked her to stop as could no longer focus. She bombarded me with messages during my work time, escalating threats from one message to another. She also smeared my name with the other lodger she is friendly with so that I had to have an open conversation with him about what really happened - i.e. she transferred full rent knowing she’ll move out sooner, left the key, demanded deposit and said goodbye. The lodger agreed that she had no claim to the property now, however the emotional damage of having to clear my name was done.

I have given this a lot of thought and will return the money to her with a strongly worded email - not because I am legally bound to do so, but because I don’t wish to deal with this level of toxicity any longer. This person has bullied her way into getting what she wants, making a U-turn from a kind gesture of compensation to annihilation, and at this point I just wish to distance myself as no longer wish to be subjected to this level of attack.

Thank you all for contributing your thoughts, it had been helpful for me to think about this problem.

You incurred no financial loss at all. The agent found you a tenant for an agreed price. The agent’s responsibility ends there.

Okay, let’s vonsider this in more extreme proortions Let’s say a tenant plans to stay for 20 years when they move in, this is a verbal agreement between you and the tenant in principle. Two months later the tenant says they are moving out, but decide to pay for 20 years ahead as they feel morally obliged to do so. They move out the next month, return the keys and get their deposit back. Are you saying that you can’t rent out the place for the next 20 years or sell it? So is there a legal claim on their room for 20 years?

I’m sorry but the premise of your argument is entirely false. If your contract is monthly then that’s all the tenant was committed to in the absence of a fixed term. As i said right at the start, no one moves into a lodging “permanently”.

I didn’t ask her to pay for 20 years ahead, neither have I asked her to pay beyond 1 month’s notice, which she chose to do herself for feeling guilty. It was her choice, I didn’t “charge” her for it and it was therefore a gift from her, given that she accepted her deposit. Citizen Aid and another estate agent I asked today seem to agree that one has no claim to the property once they accepted the deposit and handed in the key, regardless of how far ahead they paid to say sorry. I guess there are different perspectives on this.

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Interesting. So even she was on a monthly contract and owed rent until the end of the month, you were at that point generous enough not to require her to pay this.

Do your lodgers not pay rent in advance? This is pretty standard practice.

Is that what the written document states?

Yes lodgers pay a month in advance, so she paid for the full of April in advance. In her text message mid March she gave her one month’s notice. She also texted at the time that she will pay until the end of April because feeling guilty, but would move out much sooner. So she didn’t state it was a “gift”, but I don’t know howelse to see it.

The text message read" “I will be leaving, I will pay for April but move out sooner.” She

She also wrote at the time that she wanted more space and has been looking for a place for a while. Two months earlier she moved in saying she wanted to stay long term.

She later changed this story verbally, saying the reason for her moving out was that she almost fell down the stairs. A month later this turned into “I fell down the stairs”.