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Problem with sublet/early termination of contract


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Hi, everyone,

 

Can anyone give me some advice on this please? Sorry it’s a long post, but will try to make myself as clear as possible.

 

I’m posting on behalf of my boyfriend. He’s got a 1-year Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement with a private landlady for a single room in a 3-bed shared house, starting from 15 Sep 2006, so the agreement will come to an end on 15 Sep 2007.

 

Because my boyfriend recently moved to my house, his room is therefore empty, but he’s still paying the rent there. Since that’s a bit waste of money, he wanted to sublet the room to an alternative tenant to cover the remaining term of his contract (i.e. up until 15 Sep 2007). He advertised the room on the web and found a new tenant last Friday. He called the landlady on the same day and told her about this, and the lady said she wanted to meet the new tenant before he moves in. My boyfriend assured the landlady that he’ll pay the rent until 15 Sep as normal, it’s just a change of person who’s living in that room (new tenant will pay him).

 

However, as the landlady was not available until today (Wed) 5pm, and the new tenant was very desperate to move in (was staying in hotel), my boyfriend gave him the key to move in on Saturday, and introduced him to one of the house mates. Then they just waited for Wed (today) to meet the landlady.

 

Then things happened yesterday (Tue), the new tenant called us saying that the landlady came without notice and asked him to move out immediately (probably the other house mate complained about him to the landlady). Then my boyfriend went to the house to see what has happened. The landlady was very angry and referred to the new tenant as being illegal tenant. She asked the guy to leave immediately, and then took the keys from the door and left immediately. When asking her why this guy was not an acceptable tenant, she didn’t say anything but said will come today 5pm to meet my boyfriend again.

 

Then the new tenant had to move out immediately, but the landlady took the keys away. My boyfriend wanted to get them back so called the lady, but her phone’s switched off, and not returning any of the voice messages he’s left. He made it clear in voicemail that he just wanted the keys back, because he’s still paying the rent to her. Anyway she’s not returning any calls, so we had no choice but to go to her house hoping to get the keys. After 20 minutes of knocking/waiting, she didn’t answer the door.

 

We were very angry about what happened yesterday, ok, letting the tenant in without meeting her first is not right, but she entered the room without prior notice (not even a phone call to my boyfriend), and took the keys away while he’s still paying the rent, not answering calls/door etc. I just feel she’s done something wrong as well.

 

We then checked the original Tenancy Agreement with the landlady and found she’s breached several clauses. The agreement also says that after 3 months, the tenant can give 1-month notice to end the agreement if he can find an suitable alternative tenant. Therefore my boyfriend wrote a letter to the landlady, highlighting what she’s done inappropriately and what we’d like to resolve the problem.

 

Today at 5pm we went there together and gave the landlady the letter. She was very angry that we went to her house yesterday and kept knocking on her door, and said what we did was stupid. She also said I wasn’t invited to this house and she’d call the police if I come next time. She said by moving stuff out, not living there and letting the room to others, my boyfriend’s evicted him self out, not her. Ok, let’s put the subletting aside, if he’s still paying the rent, does he have a choice of moving stuff out and not living there? In my opinion, the fact that the room is empty shouldn’t bother her, as long as she’s got the money. When asked why that guy wasn’t suitable, she just said because he’d not a full-time student and she only lets to students.

 

I think the relevant clauses relating to the landlady’s violation of agreement are:

Clause 1.10 “The tenant is obliged to allow the landlord or anyone with the landlords written permission to enter the property, provided the landlord has given 24 hours’ prior written notice (except in emergency)”.

Clause 2.1 “The landlord agrees that the tenant may live in the property without unreasonable interruption from the landlord” and Clause 6.3 “The landlord shall be entitled to have and retain keys for all the doors to the property but shall not be entitled to use these to enter the property without the consent of the tenant”.

Clause 4.1 “after the first three months of the term, if the tenant can find a suitable alternative tenant, and provided this alternative tenant is acceptable to the landlord (the landlord’s approval not to be unreasonably withheld) the tenant may give notice to end the tenancy on a date at least one month from the date that such approval is given by the landlord. On the expiry of such notice, provided that the tenant pays to the landlord the reasonable expenses reasonably incurred by the landlord in granting the necessary approval and in granting any new tenancy to the alternative tenant, the tenant shall end.

Clause 4.3.2 “If at any time there’s any breach, non-observance or non-performance by the tenant or any covenant or other term of this agreement which has been notified in writing to the tenant and the tenant has failed within a reasonable period of time to remedy the breach, the landlord may recover possession of the property and this agreement shall come to an end…Note if anyone is living at the property or if the tenancy is an assured or assured shorthold tenancy then the landlord must obtain a court order for possession before re-entering the property.

 

In summary:

l She has entered the room without prior notice;

l She didn’t notify my boyfriend in writing of anything that she thought was a breach of the Agreement before taking any action

l She has evicted him illegally yesterday by stopping him from getting back to the house, while still paying the rent.

 

Today there’s another prospective tenant (who’s a student) contacted my boyfriend and wanted to move in, we texted the lady, but she said she’s not available till next Tue to meet, and nobody can move in before meeting her first. This means that it’s very likely that this tenant will just look somewhere else as usually people looking for short-term let are quite desperate to move in quickly.

 

Sorry a very long story, but can anyone advise what’s the best way to deal with this trouble landlady? I know both parties have done something wrong in this matter. We shouldn’t have let the new tenant moving in without first meeting the landlady, but the lady could have been a bit more polite and reasonable. I’ve a feeling that the landlady might even not returning the deposit back at the end of the day, as the relationship has become very tense because what’s happened recently.

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Thanks for your reply, Aequitas. Actually forgot to say, yesterday when met the landlady at 5pm, she did return the keys. When we asked why didn't return them on Tuesday, she said she needed to ensure the illegal tenant is gone.

 

Anyway we wanted to resolve this peacefully if possible, and tried to be reasonable, so in the letter, my boyfriend said from yesterday gave her 1-month notice to end tenancy, and will try to find an alternative tenant by then. Problem now is the landlady keeps saying she's busy to meet the new person we've found (not available till next Tue), I think it's just her excuse to play us around, so that we could lose this tenant and have to find again.

 

The other 2 housemates are both on the landlady's side. They were alright before this has happened. But yesterday they were all angry about my boyfriend to let the new tenant in, and said should we go to court, we'd lose the case, etc. One even said, he came back home and saw a stranger woman (the new tenant's girlfriend was visiting) cooking in the kitchen, and a half-naked man lying on the bed (well, lying in my boyfriend's room, not his), that's the most disgusting thing he's ever seen in 2 years. Apparently, it's this guy who called the landlady to come. I can't understand what his problem is. A stranger women cooking in the kitchen? He could have introduced himself and there'll be no longer stranger. She's cooking her food, not his, what's the problem there? And that new tenant is lying in his own room, what's the problem with half-naked in one's own room? I really don't understand this.

 

Both the 2 other tenants and the landlady thought we've done terribly wrong by letting the other guy in before meeting the lady, and didn't think they've done anything wrong. I'd like to know, should we go to court for this, do we stand any chance of winning?

 

Thanks for looking!

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zhanghuangxiao,in reply to your posts and in my view:

 

1.To be perfectly honest and blunt with you I think your boyfriend was wrong not to introduce the new tenant to the other 2 existing tenants and should have been with him.I am saying this and putting myself in the other 2 tenants' shoes.

 

Personally,I do not think your boyfriend should worry about the other two tenants.It is what is written in his agreement with the landlady that is more important and what counts.

 

2.Until the potential replacement tenant is a tenant i.e. approved by the landlady it could be argued that he was a trespasser.

 

3.Regarding the alternative replacement tenant I would not worry too much and see that your boyfriend pays the rent up to the end of the 1 month notice and NO MORE! In my view the landlady would be classed as unreasonable if she did not see to meet new potential replacement tenants.

Also the fact that she ordered a previous replacement tenant to leave the property should stack in your boyfriend's favour here.

 

4.By taking the keys she had forfeited the tenancy or it potentially be classed as a Constructive Eviction and by returning the keys it could classed as a reinstatement.Again hopefully this should go in your boyfriend's favour here should there be a problem with getting the deposit refunded.

 

5.One final suggestion - make sure your boyfriend takes photos of the property and mainly his room prior to give the keys back to the landlady.She may try and create deductions due to the property being in a messy state etc.

 

Hopefully you find this information/suggestions useful.

 

If you have any more questions,just ask.

 

Keep us posted.

 

All the best!

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Thanks for your reply, Nightmare4banks.

 

Yes, I do understand that letting the replacement tenant in without first meeting the landlady was wrong. However my boyfriend did introduce the new tenant to one of the housemates (lets say Mr A) when he moved in, and there seemed to be nothing wrong with Mr A at that time about him moving in. Mr A and the new tenant even chatted a bit about the house and the surrounding area etc.

 

My boyfriend couldn't introduce the new tenant to the other housemate (Mr B) because Mr B was not at home at the time. However the day before the new tenant moved in, my boyfriend did tell Mr B that he'll let the room to someone else, and Mr B saw us moving the stuff out of the house. At that time, he didn't say that he's unhappy about this. Therefore I'm not sure why he complained to the landlady at a later stage.

 

Anyway I totally appreciate that it's not right to let the new tenant move in without properly introduce him to the landlady/housemates.

 

Currently, the only problem is that the landlady's not able to meet the replacement tenant reasonably quick (1 week), therefore we've just lost the replacement tenant who contacted us for the room. Ok, we'll keep trying to find another replacement tenant, but if the landlady keeps being busy and not be able to meet fairly soon, they'll probably find somewhere else as well. So we'll never be able to find an replacement tenant in this way.

 

We asked the landlady what's her requirements, she just said she wants a student tenant, and the copy of his/her passport/student status letter when meeting. I'm just thinking, if we tell the landlady that once we found an alternative tenant, and can send her copy of his/her passport and student status letter if she can't meet soon, then the tenant can move in. Do you think this is a reasonable/feasible suggestion? We haven't asked the lady but will do tomorrow.

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Thanks for the above replies. Yes, the tenancy doesn't allow subletting, but instead says that if after 3 months the tenant can find a suitable alternative tenant and if this person is accepted by the landlord, as long as the landlord doesn't lose any money because of this, then the tenancy shall end.

 

Actually from the start to end, my boyfriend guaranteed the landlady that he'll pay the rent till the end of the original term, it's just a change of person living there. But the lady made it pretty clear now that she doesn't allow this to happen. She said if he doesn't live there, she can't make him paying for someone else, etc. What she wants is to end his contract when someone else moves in, and sign the contract with the new tenant till 15 Sep.

 

Therefore the lady said that even if we've found a student who fits her requirements, she still needs to meet the person first to sign the contract before he/she can move in. She can't just get the copy of passport/student letter and let him/her in before meeting.

 

To be honest, it's quite difficult to find a student tenant during this time of the year to fill this tenancy till Sep, as most students are back at home. Even if we did find one last time, because the lady couldn't meet sooner, he's decided to look somewhere else:( .

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The provision is pretty meaningless if it is phrased as you say, because it is subject to the new tenant being "acceptable". I doubt there is any definition of acceptable or any set procedure.

 

I still maintain that the landlord evicting the sub-tenant and withholding the keys was a re-entry that forfeited the tenancy. You need to argue that the return of the keys did not revive the tenancy. Send the keys back saying that the landlord's actions have brought the tenancy to an end. Also point out that the landlord has committed a criminal offence under Section 1 of the Protection form Eviction Act 1977 - see here: Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (c.43) - Statute Law Database

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