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/ Tenancy agreement problems

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teh_mark on 08 Sep 2018

At work and pondering, and looking for some sensible opinions before I seek proper legal advice. The full situation is complicated and difficult to summarise, but:

I moved into my current houseshare in April, replacing a friend on the (assured shorthold) tenancy agreement. At the time there were four signatories including myself replacing her, though one of the other girls was looking to move out and was in arrears with rent. We're jointly and severally liable for rent. After a few months of arguing I paid that person's rent arrears in full myself.

The aforementioned girl found someone to replace her, who moved in in May. The new girl also failed to pay any rent, and moved out suddenly in July. The letting agent, after spending two months asking her (and us) for rent, suddenly turned round and claimed after she had moved out that she'd been living there illegally, had never signed a tenancy agreement, and it was our fault for allowing her to live there. The first we knew of her moving in was when she appeared one day in our house. The landlady instructed the letting agent to chase the two people in question for the rent arrears rather than us.

The letting agent are now also claiming that the original problem girl never signed the renewal of the tenancy agreement, and therefore can't be chased for rent. The contract that I signed clearly states the girl in question was one of four signatories who signed the agreement on 11th April 2016, expriring April 2019. I've signed a document that apparently is entirely incorrect, and I would never have signed the agreement if there'd only been two other tenants. The letting agent are effectively trying to disappear a tenant from the tenancy agreement.

I'd quite like to escape this cluster' of a situation; the letting agent has been beyond useless since before I moved in and I'm bored of dealing with them. Is it reasonable to argue that, as the contract I've signed is clearly incorrect, it's effectively void? I'd like to give them one month's notice on my next rent payment on the 11th, and move out on the 10th October.

Any informed opinions out there?

rogersavery - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

my informed opinion is “get a lawyer” but expect to be charge excessive amounts for doing very little by the lawyer! But the advice they give might give you an idea on which way to take the issue.

my uninformed opinion - just because they didn’t get a signature of one or more tenents doesn’t mean they don’t have a valid contract with them. If they move in and pay rent it could be assumed they have agreed to the tenancy contract - just the same as if you drive into a supermarket and park - it’s is assumed you have read the conditions of parking and by parking you agree to them - you don’t have to sign anything

 

 

Post edited at 19:12
rogersavery - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

If you have contents insurance check to see if it covers legal advice on tenancy agreements - engaging a lawyer might cost you nothing 

Post edited at 19:15
teh_mark on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to rogersavery:

My problem is that the goalposts have changed. I signed a contract that had four names on it including mine. The letting agent are claiming that one of the other signatories of that contract (who has since done a disappearing act) never signed it in the first place. I'd never have signed the agreement myself if I'd known that was the case, and the document I've signed very clearly states that the girl in question is party to the agreement.

Welsh Kate - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Citizens Advice - tenancy problems is something they're generally very good at.

Ex Poster 666 on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Another uniformed opinion, if there's no signature, you're probably screwed.
I take it you never had or seen a copy of the signed agreement with 'all' the signatories on it

You can get a free 30 minutes or an hour with a solicitor.  I've done in the past.
Be prepared so you don't waffle and waste it!

marsbar - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

I could be wrong but I'm guessing that if it was a joint agreement with 4 people and it only 3 signed chances are it's not binding to you either. 

Personally I'd tell them I was leaving, pay what I owe and let them whistle for anyone else's debts.  Change your address with everyone important and don't tell anyone your new address.

At some point it will be too much hassle to chase you for the money.  

Ex Poster 666 on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to marsbar:

Have you seen where he lives? London. Average rent £700/month.
If I've read the OP right, there's a 'missing' payer for 30 months, that's £20,000+ gone missing. No way is that going to be forgotten about!

eb202 - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Not legally qualified but been in a similar, but less compex, situation before. Personally I'd wait til the contract is up (usually 6 months, hopefully not longer!), at which point it automatically becomes a periodic tenancy, then serve a written notice to quit. Templates online. You have to give 1 month's notice and it only has to be served by one tenant to be valid. It affects all tenants. It's then up to the remaining tenants to negotiate if they want to stay on. If there are ongoing issues at the property you may struggle to get your deposit back. Also have a look at shelter's website and speak to the landlord directly, they should know who signed what and when. When renting in the past, i often got the impression that the agent was giving both the tenant and the landlord the run around! 

teh_mark on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to marsbar:

That's the plan: they've made a false statement of fact on the agreement that I've signed, and once I run it past someone qualified to decide whether that's enough to void the contract I'll be telling them I'm moving out at the end of the next rent period. If they'd like to challenge it in court I'd welcome it, as they've been stunningly incompetent throughout and can't see them finding any traction with that.

tom_in_edinburgh - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

My negotiating position would be that I paid for the first girls rent because of the 'joint and several' clause in the agreement I was shown which showed her as a party to the agreement.   If the landlord now believes that tenant was not a party to the agreement then I was materially mislead and they should return my money.

The path of least resistance with the 'joint and several' clause would be to go after the person who paid up for another tenant before.  So I'd want to look like someone who might fight back.

Murfle on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Sounds like a bloody nightmare.

Pay up to date and run as Marsbar suggests. Video every little scratch etc so you can't be held accountable for damages. 

 

balmybaldwin - on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

If you have contact with the landlord then I would try to deal with them directly...it sounds like they have been reasonable in the past and may also be tired of the letting agency. comparing notes with them could give them what they need to terminate their contract with the letting agent. As above IANAL seek advice

Timmd on 08 Sep 2018
In reply to marsbar:

> Personally I'd tell them I was leaving, pay what I owe and let them whistle for anyone else's debts.  Change your address with everyone important and don't tell anyone your new address.

> At some point it will be too much hassle to chase you for the money.  

That's just what I was thinking. 

trouserburp - on 09 Sep 2018
In reply to balmybaldwin:

The letting agent is obliged to give you the landlords contact details if you request them. have had many tenancies and the landlords have always been reasonable, the letting agencies never good and in one case lying thieving scum. Write to landlord direct carefully stating your case and they might override the letting agent (who it appears have failed them over a period of years). Be careful not to compromise your legal argument though, don't 'give' them anything

Don't bother with property ombudsman they're a con. Letting agencies fund them (!) and the purpose is to delay you from getting a lawyer. Took a year to get a decision out of them by which time we'd all moved out and moved on. Decision was in our favour but for a joke amount. I should have just sued them for fraud (faked landlords signature to evict us because we wouldn't let them put the rent up 10% against the landlord's instruction not to)

The informal legal advice i had was to be aggressive to the letting agent as that is the only thing they respond to. They're mostly 20yr olds with no training or understanding of the law. If they're  arguing the contract is void then none of you owe anybody a penny so you have been more than generous

Good luck 

 

itsThere on 09 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Is the letting agent trying to chase you and the old tenant for the same rent and get paid twice?

Ask for a copy of your current agreement and see what they send. Sounds like they dont have anything so you can just move out, if they do it will name the other tenant.

Neil Williams - on 09 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

It might rather limit my options, but FWIW I would be very reluctant to sign a "joint and several" tenancy agreement with anyone other than a group of friends I already knew, and would only accept a replacement I personally knew.  If I wanted to live in an HMO where the selection of residents was more open as you describe, I'd want it to be one where each room was separately contracted using a licence agreement.

marsbar - on 09 Sep 2018
In reply to Ex Poster 666:

The landlord may be insured for that.  

teh_mark on 09 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

After a further bit of looking, it also turns out the landlord never signed the document stating I was replacing my friend on the tenancy agreement either (online electronic signing, it remains unsigned to this day).

The letting agent have clearly and unambiguously stated that 'person X' did not sign the tenancy renewal (which was signed before I became involved), and the document I signed clearly lists person X as a tenant and party to the tenancy agreement. That quite clearly seems to be misrepresentation.

I'd like to think a combination of those two things should make it quite easy to escape without consequence. I'll have fun arguing it on Tuesday

marsbar - on 09 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Good luck.  

Jim Hamilton - on 10 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Not quite sure why it should be "misrepresentation" when it appears everyone knew X was leaving? Also could the agents have signed on the landlords behalf, and would the remaining tenants come after you for ongoing rent if you left early? 

Bellie on 10 Sep 2018
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

An agent shouldn't be able to sign on behalf of a landlord.  You seem to now have a contract that wasn't signed by either the landlord or one of the parties named in the contract.   Sounds very much like the letting agents have dropped the ball on this one.  

teh_mark on 10 Sep 2018
In reply to Jim Hamilton:

> Not quite sure why it should be "misrepresentation" when it appears everyone knew X was leaving?

Because she was leaving by finding a new tenant to replace her. I was sold the situation of 'these people have signed this agreement from this date to this date, and you're replacing one of them'. It's stated on the agreement that I signed that they're all signatories...except one of them isn't. It's a false statement of fact that Person X has signed the original agreement - she hasn't. And neither has the Landlord, for that matter.

Jim Hamilton - on 10 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

> I was sold the situation of 'these people have signed this agreement from this date to this date, and you're replacing one of them'. It's stated on the agreement that I signed that they're all signatories...except one of them isn't. It's a false statement of fact that Person X has signed the original .

Although from your previous thread?

"My friend is moving out of her room, and at the same time another tenant has moved out of theirs. I 'took' the other tenant's room, signed the tenancy agreement,"

MonkeyPuzzle - on 10 Sep 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Nothing to add myself but recommend contacting Acorn tenants' union on Facebook. They're an excellent organisation with constant wins against problem landlords and agencies.

Jim Hamilton - on 10 Sep 2018
In reply to Bellie:

> An agent shouldn't be able to sign on behalf of a landlord.  

They can, so long as they have the landlords agreement. I would be a bit concerned whether the contract is as full of holes as the OP thinks, and he doesn't become liable for multiple rents if he moves somewhere else.  

 

teh_mark on 08:21 Sat
In reply to teh_mark:

Update: after a week of radio silence, the letting agent appear to have capitulated and sent us a document to sign to confirm our termination of the tenancy. No argument, no discussion, not even an acknowledgement, just an automated email.

Even better, they also appear to have not protected our deposit under the names of any of the people who actually currently live here. You couldn't make it up.

MonkeyPuzzle - on 09:26 Sat
In reply to teh_mark:

If they didn't protect your deposit I believe you can claim (if arsed) a multiple of your deposit value.

teh_mark on 12:39 Sat
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Yup; on my to-do list once I get a few moments. I have little patience for thieving inept scum and I'm happy to make as many problems as I can for them if it dissuades them from being inept, unpleasant 'ts to other tenants in the future.


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