Tenant wants to cancel before moving in

My tenant was due to move in today. They have not paid the full deposit or the first months rent. They now want to cancel due to a change of circumstances.

I am aware we can agree a surrender using the open rent template and am minded to do so as I’m not looking for a legal battle. Ideally I’d like the tenant to pay rent for the remarketing period but I’m not sure they will agree to this.

What happens to the open rent holding deposit in these circumstances? Is this transferred to me to cover wasted time, fees and remarketing costs? If so, how do I inform open rent and request the deposit transfer?

Any other advise welcome.

If they haven’t moved in and you haven’t given them the keys, then the tenancy has not yet begun and you don’t need a surrender. You can mutually agree to cancel the contract. Provided the holding deposit was properly handled, it should come to you. You should speak to Openrent about this.


Thanks for your reply. I get the impression Open Rent send the holding deposit back to the tenant, which seems daft to me. Their ‘support’ on this has been useless so far!

It has cost me relisting fees, additional referencing fees and the best part of a months rent. I think the holding deposit is the least I should expect!

If you request the tenant to cancel the application on their side, then I think you get to keep the holding deposit (as opposed to YOU cancelling the application). At least, this is what happened to me when I was in a similar situation last year.

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Thank you. I just want Open Rent to confirm this to me. They have sent me the same standard response three times which just does not cover my question. I cant agree surrender terms until I know what they do with that money. I read elsewhere they will always return it to the tenant, so I need to know for definite.

The reality is you probably wont get anything so concentrate on reletting. You can ask them for monies but if they say no dont sweat it. If they have signed the contract that should count for something.
We get money upfront as soon as possible often asking 3 months rent up front plus deposit … that really focuses the tenants mind. By not getting their money early enough you have given them a easy out, part of the learning curve im afraid

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Call the Openrent office and speak to someone if you can.

Can i see your house today because i am interrested and want to move today

I’ve just been through the process which I wasn’t happy with but turned out OK. I let my flat to a doctor who was in NHS accommodation and wanted my flat. He paid the £194 initial deposit. In between moving then and moving in he rang me to say the NHS had offered him a better job elsewhere , however he had a doctor friend who wanted similar accommodation with an earlier start date. I was happy with this and agreed I would give him half the £194 back. I then started the process.
Basically the process is that OR send the deposit to the tenant and you are expected to to negotiate and get signed a form ( landlord and tenant ) stating the agreed split of the deposit.Then enforce it . If there is no agreement I believe there is no return. So you have to bribe the tenant with part of the deposit to get something back if he pulls out. Its a con by OR .


I had exactly the same happen to me 18months ago, worse still initially the tenants refused to sign a surrender deed let alone pay fees for me to find a new tenant and open rent would not let me keep their deposit until the tenant had cancelled themselves despite all the wrangling with them. I eventually with many sleepless weeks got a signed surrender and the holding fee deposited to me but it was not easy and I couldn’t Re market it until I had the signed surrender deed. There should be timescales set on tenants once they have signed to pay rent and remainder of the deposit and if the at day comes and goes they forfeit the holding fee and the contract should be cancelled.


This has never happened to me, I must have been lucky.

It’s a week since you posted and I have only just seen this. Your situation is probably resolved by now but I’d be interested to know if anyone disagrees with what I would do if this happened.

If the tenancy agreement had not been signed by both parties then I would just accept the loss from any void period. I would have no claim against the tenant and they would have no claim against me.

If both parties had signed a tenancy agreement but, as David122 says, the tenancy had not yet commenced because the tenant has not been given possession of the property, then the agreement would take effect as a contract, not a tenancy. A pedant might argue that all tenancies are contracts, and that’s true, but the provisions of the law which apply specifically to residential tenancies wouldn’t apply. I would give the other side 48 hours’ written notice to either (a) complete the contract by paying all monies due and taking possession or (b) physically return their part of the contract with a letter saying they do not wish to take possession. I would say in the notice that failure to comply will result immediately in proceedings for breach of contract which will inevitably lead to a CCJ against them. I would make it clear I am not bluffing and point out the effect on their credit rating of a CCJ. I would need to specify the amount of money I am claiming and this would depend on my assessment of the situation. I could claim for loss of rent - it’s a judgement I would make. I would probably decide that all I really want is for them to disappear in which case their return of the document with a letter resiling it is what I would need.

I don’t know about the Open Rent holding deposit. I don’t trust the Open rent holding deposit system. I think it’s misconceived. In my adverts and standard pingbacks to enquiries I tell applicants NOT to pay an Open Rent holding deposit, and that if they do pay it by mistake they must cancel and reclaim it otherwise I will not consider them for the letting. If I want a holding deposit I get the applicant to sign my own lock-out agreement which is a form of option.

Hi Sally, just checking if you got any confirmation from Openrent on this question in the end? Did you manage to keep any of the holding deposit?

You should work out your expenses and recover it from the deposit paid.
If you supply a reasonable figure, you should be able to recover the costs.
The tenancy hasn’t started yet, so deposit money should be returned to you.
Keep us informed.