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Help Landlord Selling Flat And Leaving Us High And Dry

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All

Sorry for this, but I need advice. I have been in the UK for 3+ years and still do not understand tenant rights (or lack thereof) here. And apologies for the length of this email.

What I need to know is whether or not it is worth paying a lawyer to review our situation or if it is hopeless.

We have a lease that runs through to April 2010 for our flat. Our only out from the lease is if we have to move back to the States.

We contacted the management company about three weeks ago telling them that I am pregnant and, if possible and the landlord would agree, would like to terminate early to get a bigger place (due at the end of October). If not, fine. We didn't want to pay double rent or lose a deposit, etc.

Turns out the landlord wanted to sell at the end of our tenancy and we all agreed that he would try and sell now as the market is really good (even if a blip) comparatively and, if he could sell before the end of Oct. we could move. They never promised that if they sold but didn't close until Nov. that they would let us go, just said we would have to see. We told them if they sold but didn't close until the end of Nov. we couldn't move until January.

Long story short, we have been keeping the place extremely clean and allowed them to show it almost everyday and many evenings - including being out at dinner time, etc. so they could show. We agreed to do this as it was in both our interests. They sold the place this weekend. Got asking price from a distance buyer who is buying to rent.

Management company called this morning to ask when we needed to move by - Oct. 1 - and then started saying they would help find us new flats and sent us listings. I received listings and then called to clarify that we could move by Oct. 1 and would not be held to rent, etc. for the rest of the time until closing.

Wrong. They may be able to close by Oct. 14; maybe later. They will ask but don't expect the landlord to be willing to give up rent for the interim period and won't give us a guaranteed out date. Did say we could try to set up a termination date for January but if the landlord did not agree, technically the new owner can hold us to the full lease term - through April of next year.

So, in other words, they wanted us to look at places and possibly enter into a contract with a third party where we would then have to pay double rent until the landlord closes?

Aside from this being, in my opinion, a really one-sided, screw you move from our landlord, is this right legally? Are we really left with no options. I don't see anything in my lease that says the tenancy agreement can't be assigned (and the definition of landlord is anyone who owns a majority of the property, but our current landlord is listed by name in the contract) but nothing that says it can be assigned.

What do you think? Waste of time to get advice from an tenant's lawyer?

Thank you in advance.

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Sounds typical. The Letting agent acts for your Landlord, the Managing Agent acts for your LL and your LL only cares for him/herself.

You made a mistake by not including a proper "break clause" in your contract. The one that was included (i.e. to move back to the USA) wasn't good enough for your current circumstances.

Please reread your AST and double-check that clause again.

You were entirely reasonable and honest with the Landlord and the agent. There was no reason not to "trust" them. They used your goodwill.

What do you actually have in writing? Obviously you have a written agreement with the LL about the terms and conditions you allowed strangers into your home and disrupted your life?

If it was all done by the phone then it's going to be difficult to prove. Agents and LL deliberately keep these agreements that way so that they can break them easily. Do you have any emails that would proof your case or any other evidence?

Given the current market you may find that the current buyer has to pull out because they don't have a mortgage and can't get one. Even buyers that say that it is a "cash buy" sometimes turn out not to have been honest. The sale may evaporate.

You are probably getting the picture that a great deal of dishonesty goes on in the UK rental and sales markets and you will be right. As a long term tenant I am used to lying agents and lying Landlords.

What you need to do is work out what bargaining power you have and what you intend to do. Tenants Rights are very poor in a situation like this. Sometimes a strongly worded legal letter can help, backed up with a threat of legal action. Sometimes it becomes a pointless exercise (an exchange of lawyers letters).

It can become a huge game of bluff.

Can you "fake" a return to the USA?

If the house sale continues the buyer may want vacant possession, can you alternatively, suddenly make it clear that only a court order will get you out?

Just a few ideas to consider. Good luck.

Edited by Flopsy

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Your tenancy agreement sounds weird - when did it start?

Usually a tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST for short) which runs 6 months. Following that you usually move onto a rolling contract with the LL needing to give you 2 months notice and you needing to give one. It sounds very odd. Is your OH British or also American? It all sounds like let's screw the foreigner to me, to be honest

I'd get some free advice:

Citizens Advice Bureau

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Community Legal Advice

http://www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk/

Law Centres

http://www.lawcentres.org.uk/

Keep us posted! Best of luck

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Thank you both.

We asked for a two year lease with a cap on rent increases as our original lease (from when we first moved over here from the States had no cap, etc. on it and we faced a 30% increase at the end of our term). The provision regarding moving back to the States was added as an addendum.

Have asked for a date in January when we get early termination and want it in writing as, obviously, they can't grant it to us after the sale without the new landlord agreeing. Have I heard back? No.

They better just hope the sale doesn't not go through. No way with a new baby and my new understanding of how they operate am I going to be willing to let them in whenever they want to show the place. Anyway...live and learn I guess.

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Thank you both.

We asked for a two year lease with a cap on rent increases as our original lease (from when we first moved over here from the States had no cap, etc. on it and we faced a 30% increase at the end of our term). The provision regarding moving back to the States was added as an addendum.

Have asked for a date in January when we get early termination and want it in writing as, obviously, they can't grant it to us after the sale without the new landlord agreeing. Have I heard back? No.

They better just hope the sale doesn't not go through. No way with a new baby and my new understanding of how they operate am I going to be willing to let them in whenever they want to show the place. Anyway...live and learn I guess.

Where did you find these cowboys? This arrangement makes little sense to me. Sadly I think you have been played due to being foreigners and not understanding the rental market in the UK. 30% rental increase is fantasyland stuff at the best of times let alone in the last few years. The rental marketplace is absolutely saturated - they are in no position to piss off their tenants. They are playing on your ignorance methinks.

I'd get some advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau regarding what exactly your rights are as a first step. Regarding viewings you have the right to quiet enjoyment and can play silly buggers with that. I would warn you that anyone you deal with is probably going to have no knowledge of your rights etc etc and will read from a script. Any departure from that will meet with stonewalling/ That doesn't mean you shouldn't make your position clear, just that it may be hard work getting it through their thick skulls. Letting agents and landlords in this country appear to believe you should be grateful they are offering accommodation and not behave as if you are their customer expecting a service for your money.

I am sorry you have been treated so shabbily in this country. If it is any comfort, the locals get treated like serfs as well. Personally I cannot understand why any American would want to live in this dump of a country. If I could get a green card I'd leave tomorrow.

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Where did you find these cowboys?

You obviously didn't read the original post.

The LL said that he wanted to sell at the end of the term (April 2010). The OP then said, "in that case we would like to go early is that OK" to which the landlord replied "Yes".

The LL is doing the tenants a favour here, not taking advantage

tim

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My rule of thumb is, if the OP's query takes more than two paragraphs to explain, my advice is 'Stop Paying Rent and Change The Locks'.

If you need a landlord's reference for your next place, please let me know.

Welcome to Britain. We're not all bad!

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Thank you all again. Learning (sort of) quickly about tenants' rights here. Very different from the States. LL is letting us go, in writing, for mid-December but will only do so after exchange (which I suppose I understand). Will definitely know what to look for in our next lease.

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Thank you all again. Learning (sort of) quickly about tenants' rights here. Very different from the States. LL is letting us go, in writing, for mid-December but will only do so after exchange (which I suppose I understand). Will definitely know what to look for in our next lease.

There isn't much that you can do about the terms in the lease. They are mostly defined by statute.

All you can do is choose between a periodic tenancy, which means that you can give (or be given) notice, or have a fixed term tenancy which means that neither you, nor the landlord, can give notice during the term, but can be asked to leave at the end. With the latter, if you want to leave early you have to pay rent up to the end of the term.

You can get "break" clauses added but usually these are symmetrical. You won't get a lease which gives you security and the possibility of giving notice. No-one will offer you this now, they don't have to.

tim

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Thank you all again. Learning (sort of) quickly about tenants' rights here. Very different from the States. LL is letting us go, in writing, for mid-December but will only do so after exchange (which I suppose I understand). Will definitely know what to look for in our next lease.

Pregnant women, mid-december, needs a place to stay. Why does this ring a bell?

You've the makings of a Channel Four Christmas special there.

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I know how you feel.

We've just had our vendor pull out of our house purchase on the day we were due to exchange contracts.

We've already given notice on our rented place and new people are due to move in, thus we had 10 days notice that we would be homeless.

In the morning we were anticipating moving into a 4 bed detached house, by the afternoon, we were making plans to live in a hotel for a few months with our 2 year old, and all our stuff in storage.

Ignore what people on here say. Right now, it's a sellers market. *****.

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Your landlord is doing you a favour because you want to move to a bigger house.

And now you're complaining that he's trying to screw you???!!!!

Get a life, stop whinging, and go back to where you came from.

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Your landlord is doing you a favour because you want to move to a bigger house.

And now you're complaining that he's trying to screw you???!!!!

Get a life, stop whinging, and go back to where you came from.

No. What I am complaining about is the landlord and estate agents' "promises" after we approached them on this and their total lack of ethics in following-through. As you will note, I said that if they weren't into the idea, fine. If we couldn't go early, fine.

What bothers me is that they decided to move forward the date to sell, told us if we went out of our way to help them sell by allowing them basically unlimited access and being out of the place whenever they needed, and keeping it clean to a level we would if it was our own place, that they would allow us to possibly leave early. I told them from day one that we didn't want an early release if it meant we would be penalized monetarily. They then, upon getting an offer, tried to help us find a place. This would all be good except they would not actually give us the release, which meant they wanted us to agree to a lease elsewhere and possible be liable for rent in both. And they never said this.....they agreed with me on my requests until I asked for something in writing. Suddenly, it was something different.

And I note that they are selling to someone who wants to rent. Do you think the new buyer would be more likely to be interested with current tenants who are paying a lot more than they would get in rent on the current market until April? Not a lot of time, I agree, in the big scheme of things. But it does take some pressure off the new landlord initially. Funny they haven't gotten back to me about letting us out of our lease early as "promised" initially.

As I note in my original post, my concern is the total lack of any kind of ethics or accountability from estate agents and landlords and whether this really was acceptable here. "Where I came from" does offer tenants rights that would prevent this type of misleading. As I have found from this site, the UK doesn't. Like I said.....lesson learned that you don't have that here.

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