Sometimes people sign a tenancy agreement and their circumstances then change, be it before or after moving in, resulting in them no longer being able or willing to live at that property. This might be due to withdrawing from their course, their financial situation changing, falling out with housemates or other personal circumstances.
If you are in this situation, don’t ignore it as this can make the situation worse. This page explains how you stand legally and what you can do about it.
If you have signed a contract with a landlord then this is legally binding; meaning that regardless of your personal circumstances you cannot simply ‘back out’ of the contract and are legally liable for the rent for the duration of the tenancy, whether you’re living there or not.
If rent remains unpaid then the landlord will have grounds to take legal against you through County Court to recover money owed (i.e. sue). This will result in a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against your name, which affects your credit rating and can make it difficult to get a mortgage or loan, or even rent again.
If you’ve signed a joint contract then not only is the person that has decided not to live there liable for their rent, the remaining tenants are liable for it too – as are any applicable guarantor(s). So if one person moves out or doesn’t move in in the first place and doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the remaining tenants can, at the landlord’s discretion, also be asked to pay that person’s share of the rent and are legally equally as liable as the person that has decided not to live there (thus can also be taken to Court if it’s not paid).
Unfortunately, while you can ask them, it’s very rare for a landlord to agree to simply ‘release’ someone from a contact.
1. Don’t ignore the problem – this can make things worse. Consider the below steps as soon as possible.
2. Usually the only way to ‘get out’ of a contract is to find a replacement tenant.
A good place to start is the Unipol Student-To-Student Noticeboard (go to www.unipol.org.uk and select ‘Search for Housing’ > ‘Noticeboard’). Here you can place an ad for your spare room/s and also search ads by other students looking for a spare room (NB it can be updated quite regularly to we suggest checking back frequently). This facility is used by students at all 3 Leeds Universities (and the HE Colleges) so gets maximum coverage.
Some students have also used other online facilities such as spareroom.com, Gumtree or Facebook, however it’s unknown exactly how effective these are likely to be.
3. Talk to the landlord / agent about what’s happening. See if they will re-advertise the bedspace themselves as well – however please note that some landlords / agents might charge a fee for re-advertising the bedspace so we suggest that you check your contract or ask them about it first.
– There are more spare bedspaces in Leeds than there are students to fill them, so finding a replacement housemate can be difficult and there is no guarantee that you will be able to find one.
– It’s a good idea for the existing housemates to be involved in the search for a replacement housemate – not least because they will be the ones living with them and, in a joint contract, will usually need to agree to any replacement.
– If the problem is that housemates have fallen out, consider if there might be a possibility of finding a way to work things out. The Students' Union can help & advise with this and can often offer mediation.
– Signing in a new tenant usually incurs an admin fee payable to the landlord / agent – check your contract or ask the landlord for details.
– Replacement housemates are usually ‘signed in’ to the contract in one of two ways:
1. ‘Surrender and re-grant’ – This is basically where the old contract is nullified and replaced with a new contract – usually pretty much identical to the old one except with the new tenant’s name in place of the old one.
2. ‘Assignment’ – This is where the responsinilities of a tenant in an existing tenancy are passed on to a new tenant.
For further help & advice, please don’t hesitate to contact the SU Advice Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will be happy to help if possible.