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Early termination of tenancy agreement -help needed

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Hi, I'm looking for some advice please.

 

My boyfriend and I moved into our current rented property on 30th January 2010. We had to move out of our previous house quickly as the landlord wanted to move back in so we went for our current property in a bit of a rush. Unfortunately, the house isn't what we expected and we're paying (in our opinion) far too much for somewhere we're not entirely happy with. In an attempt to save money we are moving out to somewhere cheaper.

 

Our contract is for 12 months and runs until 30th Jan 2011. We went to our letting agent and asked if we could get out of the contract early and were told only if the landlord agrees to it, and in which case they will need to find new tenants beforehand and we will be charged for the reletting fees etc. All fair so far.

 

We had a phone call the next day from the agent telling us that the landlord had agreed to us moving out and that they had found a new tenant who would be ready to move in by the end of July. This is a bit sooner than we were intending to move but we were pleased they had agreed to us going and so we agreed. Nothing has been put into writing yet - this has all been done verbally. Do we need to get something in writing to stop trouble later on?

 

A few days later we were phoned by the agent to ask how we were progressing with finding somewhere to live. She then went on to tell my boyfriend that the person moving into our house at the end of the month was actually her (the letting agent) as she had sold her house! She also told him that the landlord had asked her not to let us know that she was moving in, but that she didn't see a problem with telling us. I know from previous conversations with the agent that she knows the landlord personally so I wouldn't be suprised if she was getting a 'friends' deal and that's why the LL didn't want us to know.

 

My problem is that in our contract it states that if we break the tenancy early we are liable to cover the costs of reletting the property and for any rent lost once we move out. We are due to move out on 30th July (although as I said this is not in writing, just a verbal agreement) and our letting agent is moving in that same weekend. So there will be no loss in rent. We have been told that we are being charged £350 for breaking our contract early. But our contract states that if we break the contract early we will be charged for the costs of advertising and reletting the property. Surely if the letting agent agreed with the landlord the next day after we said we wanted to move, and there were no adverts put out, no time spent by the agent showing people round the house etc. how can we be charged for reletting costs!? I have no idea where the figure of £350 comes from!

 

I didn't have a problem with paying the £350 at first as I felt guilty for breaking the contract early and grateful that they had found another tenant. But now that I know the letting agent is moving in and the landlord didn't want us to know that, I feel that we are being walked all over.

 

I want to give the agent a piece of my mind and demand to know what the fees are for, but my boyfriend doesn't want me to say anything until the point that we move out of the property in case the letting agent decides that she doesn't want to move in anymore and then we end up being liable to pay the rent for 2 properties (which we could never afford! we can barely afford the 1 at the moment!). But I fear that if we don't ask now why we are being charged we won't have a leg to stand on when we move and they demand the money.

 

THe letting agent has also started pointing out problems with the property. We mentioned that the guttering was leaking slightly and she said if we didn't get it cleared out we would be charged out of our deposit for it (it does say in our contract that we should clear the guttering - although having been there for less than 6 months we didn't really think this should be an issue yet!). But we have been good little tenants and have paid to have the guttering cleared. My boyfriend spoke to her today and told her it had been done, to which she came back and said that actually when she looked at it it looked as though the guttering was actually broken and we need to get that sorted! Bearing in mind how little time we have been at the property and that we were told when the gutters were cleared that there wasn't actually much in there - how can we be responsible for a broken gutter?? The leak was actually there when we moved in but unfortunately we didn't note it on the inventory so I feel that we may end up getting diddled on this one. Actually, to make a VERY shameful confession, we never actaully signed and returned the inventory when we moved in so I fear we may end up getting charged for all sorts of wear, tear and marks that we noticed but didn't flag up when we moved in. We've definitely shot ourselves in the foot here haven't we??

 

Sorry for such a looong, rambling message but I have a feeling that we may be facing some problems in the next couple of weeks. Any advice on how to approach the agents and whether I should challenge her on the fee issue would be really gratefully received. Should I try and get the fact that we are moving out and another tenant is moving in in writing, or is it all too short notice to sort out??

 

Thanks,

Charlie

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