What happens when tenants leave in the middle of an agreement?

27th March 2020

What happens when tenants leave in the middle of an agreement?

Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis the court service in England and Wales have today (27.03.20) suspended all ongoing housing possession action, which means that neither cases currently in the system or any about to go into the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This measure is designed to protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages. 

But what does happens when tenants up and leave mid contract with no regard for the Landlord's rights?

In principle, tenancy contracts are binding upon both parties and hence can be enforced in a court of law. In practice, we find that negotiation is generally more effective and less costly than going to court.

There are basically two reasons why tenants exit contracts early:

1)      Their circumstances have changed

2)      They are dissatisfied with the service they are receiving as customers.

If the circumstances of your tenants have changed it’s important to try to be flexible and consider all your options as an unhappy tenant can cause disruption to future viewing access or even malicious actions; ultimately causing you additional costs and unwanted stress.  

There may be situations where your tenants feel that they have been let down by you (or your representatives) and are therefore perfectly entitled not just to break their contract but to get their deposit back.

Remember that any claim against your tenant (if any) would be civil, not criminal. This has several implications and one of them is that a court would expect you to take reasonable steps to mitigate your loss and hence your tenant’s exposure to any claim for damages.

Given the demand for rental property in the UK, it’s probably fair to say that most landlords should be able to have new tenants in place within two to three months of their old ones leaving*. So we recommend you think carefully about your next steps:

1)      Communicate with your tenants to gain a good understanding of why they want to leave.

2)      Negotiate with them, referring to the signed contract reminding them of their notice period and obligations such as removing all their possesions.

3)      Try to agree on a settlement figure that you are both happy with and ask them to allow access for viewings.

4)      Come to an agreement on an exit date that hopefully gives you time to re advertise your property.

5)      Get in contact with your letting agent, if they have marketed your property in the past they will be able to immediately get your property online and hope to find you a tenant as quickly as possible avoiding any voids.  

The team at Anthony Webb Estate Agents have been helping landlords successfully let properties for over 20 years. Our experience can help you navigate through tricky situations that can arise from time-to-time when letting properties. You can call us for advice or an up to date rental valuation on 020 8882 7888.

*Expect periods to be longer subject to guidance from the UK government during the coronavirus outbreak. It is likely that new tenancies will not be permitted during a lockdown.