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Tenant’s relationship breakdown

On BBC money box live over the weekend there was a discussion about one type of “hidden household.” That is when tenants in a relationship move into a property together only to end up trapped together in that property when the relationship ends prior to the fixed term of the tenancy ending.

This post will consider what the landlord may do when their tenants no longer wish to live together.

When tenants enter into a fixed term tenancy, in the absence of a break clause they are contractually bound to pay the rent for the fixed term (and perhaps beyond, see discussion below). However, if they wish to end their tenancy early the landlord could:

  1. Do nothing. That is because if one or all of the tenants contact the landlord to end the tenancy early the landlord is entitled to refuse the request.
  2. Agree to end the tenancy. This means the tenants vacate the property and the landlord finds new tenants. However, with the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act this situation is not straightforward. Tenant’s wishing to terminate their tenancy early can be charged rent up until the new tenant takes occupation along with the referencing and advertising costs associated with finding a new tenant. The guidance to the Tenant Fees Act states tenants cannot be charged fees in addition to the rent but this is poorly worded and the Act does allow the charging of costs associated with finding a replacement. If fees are charged, then those fees must be reasonable and evidence of them should be retained. Naturally, it is important to consider whether a tenant who has moved out will honour an agreement to pay rent until a new tenant is found. In practice, these agreements can be hard to enforce.
  3. Agree that one of the tenants can be replaced. In the event of a joint tenancy, a landlord can at both tenants’ request agree to a change. Again, under the Tenant Fees Act the costs associated with this are payable but are not expected to exceed £50. Where they do, they must be reasonable, and evidence of the costs retained. Any guarantor that may exist should also be contacted to make them aware of the change because despite the change their liability continues. It is often the case that one party will try to move out and ask to be taken off the tenancy agreement. This is very risky as that person will no longer be liable for the rent or other agreements in the tenancy. Additionally, referencing is likely to have been done based on a joint income. There is no obligation to allow a tenant to move out and be taken off the tenancy agreement inside a fixed term.

Where landlords and agents become aware of a problem between tenants, they should attempt to resolve the issue. Having a good relationship with your tenant/s is important to ensure that matters run smoothly. Whilst landlords are operating a business they must remember that tenants are not and for them it is a personal matter which can become unbearable if not resolved.



The contents of this blog post is not legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If legal advice is needed readers should contact a solicitor. No responsibility for any information contained within this post is accepted and PainSmith solicitors accepts no liability in respect of the contents or for action taken based on this post.

Published 14 November 2019

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