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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bit of a random question this one, but too complicated to find any sensible answers on the rest of the interweb...!

I've got a friend who rents a room in a house, through an estate agent, although the owner is a live-in landlord. Simple so far...

However, his landlord has done a bunk and not been seen for over a month now - he's disappeared, they've had people coming around looking for him, his business is closed down, and they had bayliffs (well, debt collectors technically) coming around last week and said they'd come back this week. There are several problems with the house that need fixing - broken washing machine, fences blown over, no insurance, etc. He's never had a proper inventory or anything else which the contract specifies that the landlord / agents must provide.

Now, he's 4 months into a 6 month minimum term on the contract - but obviously not fun living with the threat of bayliffs coming around, with broken appliances which are specified in the inventory, etc, and so wants to move out. Obviously there's no specific term in the contract for "landlord disappeared and bayliffs knocking on the door"...

Question is, what grounds (legally) would he have for terminating the contract early? Can anyone point to any specific laws or cases that could help? The contract allows for the tenant to withhold rent in the event that the "enjoyment and use of the property is diminished" - however that doesn't seem to allow for actually terminating the contract.

If anyone does have any advice, references, "who best to contact", or anything like that, please let me know - would be very useful!

Cheers

David
 

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If your friend has rented a room that isnt self contained then really he shouldnt have signed an Assured shorthold tenancy agreement.... however there is another agreement that should have been signed, one that i'm not familiar with. A place to start is as fiona said go to c.a.b with your agreement. there are some websites that may clarify things a little
Association of Residential Letting Agents
Rental Property Knowledge - LandlordZONE
www.housingcorp.gov.uk

may be worth a look. The section about witholding rent is a tricky one. you can withold a bit of it and this should get the landlord to query it, you are quite within your rights to withold if there is a problem. If the landlord doesnt get in contact then you could gamble on moving out without paying. If he has gone bust I doubt he will want to be putting his name through many legal systems.... on the other hand if the company doesnt exist anymore then how can your friend honour a contract ? !

Tread carefully and get legal advice

Cheers

Adam
 

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Perhaps the landlord has already broken the contract.

Good luck to your mate. It may be work him getting in touch with the credit rating companies while this is going on/is over to make sure his own rating is not tainted in any way by living at the address of the landlord.

Adrian
 

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Perhaps the landlord has already broken the contract.
Adrian
This is a good point, if he no longer lives there then he is in effect renting the entire house and so an assured shorthold tenancy agreement has to be signed.

Beware though, I know I said you could gamble.... we recently took someone to court over a tenancy dispute and won... but the circumstances were completely different.

Adam
 

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erm.. legally you could get bogged down in enough detail to delay your friend's move for quite a while. Pragmatically, and if it was my friend... I'd say move out, don't pay, and see what they do. 99% chance the answer will be "nothing".

Martin
 

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erm.. legally you could get bogged down in enough detail to delay your friend's move for quite a while. Pragmatically, and if it was my friend... I'd say move out, don't pay, and see what they do. 99% chance the answer will be "nothing".

Martin
The only problem is that it could hit him years later if he applies for a mortgage/personal loan etc. if his credit rating is affected simply by being associated with the address.

Not a pleasant situation to be in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
erm.. legally you could get bogged down in enough detail to delay your friend's move for quite a while.
Yep, thats the basic problem! He's been looking to move out for a while, and as i'm also moving out of my place (landlord is selling mine) we been looking for a place together. But obviously his could be a potential issue, hence my interest :angel:

Citizens Advice might be a useful contact though, and otherwise he's going to try to persuade the estate agents to agree to it all in absence of the landlord... which I'm not convinced will be at all successful... but I know from general consumer law if you deal with the agent your contract is with the agent rather than the "supplier" (the landlord in this case), and so its their responsibility to sort it out. But not sure if the same principle applies to letting agents?

Ah well, didn't think it would be a simple answer, but was worth a try :)

Cheers all!

David
 

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Does the landlord have an agent who was used to let the room in the first place? Is there anybody associated with the landlord still at the premises? What (if anything) was signed?

Let me know,

Martin
 

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The only problem is that it could hit him years later if he applies for a mortgage/personal loan etc. if his credit rating is affected simply by being associated with the address.

Not a pleasant situation to be in.
This is true, but the damage (if any) will already have been done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Does the landlord have an agent who was used to let the room in the first place? Is there anybody associated with the landlord still at the premises? What (if anything) was signed?
Yes, it was all done through an agent - normal bog-standard letting agent, just happens that the landlord also lives at the house. No one else associated with the landlord lives there, he hasn't officially left, all his stuff is still there, just disappeared and apparently in a lot of debt - his business was a second hand car place which is now closed down. His ex-wife has apparently been round to the house trying to take things, but my friend refused to let her take anything (obviously because he couldn't give her permission to take stuff that he couldn't prove was hers).

Not sure of the exact details of what was signed, but it sounds like a fairly standard letting contract - 6 month minimum term, landlord provides water, appliances, looks after the grounds, etc. Everything you'd expect. There was supposed to be an inventory but it was never provided, agents aren't being very responsive, although he does now have in writing that they are withholding rent from the landlord in order that they retain enough to repay his deposit, "just in case". So the only remaining issue is what happens if he terminates the contract early, and is there anything he can use to persuade the agents to allow him to terminate and leave as quickly as possible without paying any rent beyond the day he leaves.

There's still the hope that the agents will be reasonable, with the landlord having been missing for so long, he's got a letter from the debt collectors who came which says they'll be back, so reasonably you'd say the enjoyment and use of the house has been compromised, and may be sufficient to terminate. Its just a case of how quickly that will be agreed by the agents, or if they'll drag it out for a long time, and really just if there's anything he can use or quote or reference to get them to agree quickly.

David
 

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It may be worth looking at terminating the contract on the grounds of frustration. This is a clear case where through no fault of his own your friend is unable to address any of these outstanding issues so there may be a way out by means of the contract becoming frustrated.
Worth asking the CAB about it.
 

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Perhaps the landlord has already broken the contract.

Good luck to your mate. It may be work him getting in touch with the credit rating companies while this is going on/is over to make sure his own rating is not tainted in any way by living at the address of the landlord.

Adrian
Credit ratings are based on names, not addresses, so your friend would be safe. However, if other people have keys, then suggest keep a close eye on any mail they receive, as ID fraud is still on the up!

Lou
 

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Credit ratings are based on names, not addresses, so your friend would be safe.
Lou
Are you sure this is the case ?? I lived with some people who were bad payers, and as a consequence I had to pay a deposit to sign up to a mobile phone contract. I can say without any hesitation that if my family name was used then I would not have had to pay such a deposit. I queried this and they confirmed that is was the address that caused an alarm. An easy way to get your credit score back on track is to simply take out a short term personal loan and pay it back on time, i know this might cost a few quid but the savings in the long run could be substantial.

Cheers

Adam
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
It may be worth looking at terminating the contract on the grounds of frustration. This is a clear case where through no fault of his own your friend is unable to address any of these outstanding issues so there may be a way out by means of the contract becoming frustrated.
*digs out old law textbooks*

Ah yeah, looks promising. Also the potential to discharge the contract due to breach of condition (can you tell i'm reminiscing from my law modules from uni :angel:). And I suspect that the threat of bayliffs, broken appliances, no maintenance, no insurance, etc may be enough to show that the performance is inadequate.

As i've said, I don't believe personally that he'd have a problem arguing the case, its just obviously better to have the estate agent's agreement (in writing) that they will accept the contract temination early and promptly return the deposit etc. Hopefully though enough promising leads will help convince the agents that its worth agreeing to it, and avoid any hassle later down the line.

Will pass the info on, cheers! :D

David
 

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Are you sure this is the case ?? I lived with some people who were bad payers, and as a consequence I had to pay a deposit to sign up to a mobile phone contract. I can say without any hesitation that if my family name was used then I would not have had to pay such a deposit. I queried this and they confirmed that is was the address that caused an alarm. An easy way to get your credit score back on track is to simply take out a short term personal loan and pay it back on time, i know this might cost a few quid but the savings in the long run could be substantial.

Cheers

Adam
pretty sure, it's where i work! years ago, yes, address and name. Now, just name, but they still look at if you move address alot also, ie if spent less than 3 years in current address, they do look at you differently. An easier and cheaper way is to contact Experian, Equifax and Call Credit to get credit records (£2 each) and any queuries, they will straighten it out, for free.

Lou
 

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I've got a friend who rents a room in a house, through an estate agent...
Hiya,

This is where estate agents earn all that nice money you pay them in estate agent fees, although sometimes they need gently reminding! Presumably they are aware of the situation. They will have the power to make the decision to terminate the contract, return the damage deposit and ensure your friend leaves with no credit impairment.

Check the wording of the tennancy agreement, but it probably says that the landlord has to sort out any broken appliances etc etc, but that this is arranged via the estate agent. Therefore, it is as much their duty and problem to sort out as the landlords. It isn't enough for them just to say "well, we can't get hold of him", as if he is breaching his terms of the contract, the contract can be terminated.

Failing that, there's an ombudsman scheme which the contract may (or may not) be governed by.

Good luck.
 

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I think that anything that I am going to add has probably already been said. Not sure if I can add anything because I am a commercial property lawyer rather than a resi one. However if you have any questions please feel free to PM me

Good luck
Jules
 

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Seems to me there may be another side to this, your friend may have a right of abode and may be able to withhold the rental (perhaps put it into an escro account) to demonstrate goodwill but may be able to argue squatters rights...
nah forget I said all that...tell him/her to stay there until the value of any deposit has been used up and then get out.

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Right, thanks to everyone for all the suggestions - think we're getting somewhere!

nah forget I said all that...tell him/her to stay there until the value of any deposit has been used up and then get out.
That's pretty much what's going to happen now. He met with the estate agents today (with a better understanding of what their responsibilities were thanks to the links and info here) and they've agreed that he need not pay any more rent on the property - essentially has their approval to live their rent-free until the end of his contract (end of July).

At the same time, they are trying to get the landlord to pay the deposit back to the agents - which apparently he has agreed to do but hasn't come through and he can't be contacted anymore). If they receive the deposit, then they'll return it to my friend and allow him to leave the property whenever he likes.

So 90% sorted, the agent is definitely on-side, although they're still fobbing him off a little by refusing to return the deposit out of their own reserves / insurance and suggesting he essentially lives there for free and effectively "save up" for his deposit from the money saved by not paying rent.

Obviously still persuing the deposit and the whole situation, but at least it's enough to allow him to move out later this month with the agreement of the agents, while also withholding the rent for the rest of the period.

Which means we're able to agree the let on our new place, and so I have somewhere to live - woohoo! :D

Again, all advice was really appreciated!

Cheers

David
 
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