When signing your contract you probably don’t foresee any reason why you would leave before the tenancy is up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always stay like this and circumstances and friendships change. Sometimes life gets in the way of contracts. If you find yourself in a position where leaving your property is the only choice, you will need a good understanding of your contract.
Once you have signed your contract you have entered into a legally binding agreement. If you want to leave the property, even if you have not yet moved in, you can’t just walk away. Some believe that if you move out of the property, this will end the agreement. Unfortunately, it will not and the landlord / agents will still continue to chase you and your guarantor for rent.
The first thing to do is talk to a student adviser at your University or Student Union. They should be able to tell you if you have grounds to leave the property and are able to give notice. Look at your housing contract to see if there is a break clause, although this is rare. There may be a break clause for the landlord but not one for the tenants. In this case you could argue this is an unfair term and the break clause should apply to you too. Having the clause available for the landlord but not for you demonstrates a significant imbalance. In this case it benefits the party with the most power – the landlord.
Some students are lucky enough to be released from their contract. Most University halls will automatically release students from their housing contract if students leave university. However, most students do not live in university accommodation and cases like this are in the minority. Virtually all private accommodation will not allow this.
In exceptional circumstances, you can talk to your landlord about possible release on compassionate and / or compelling grounds. This can be argued in serious circumstances which affect your ability to live in the property or pay the rent. This could be your own health, a family member’s health or some other situation which likely affects your study also. Not being able to pay your rent or that you have changed your mind will not count.
If you are able to get a release, you should get confirmation of this in writing from the landlord. This should include the date your liability ends, any deductions from your deposit and when you should receive this back.
If you cannot negotiate a release, your landlord will likely ask you to find a replacement for your contract. You should do this yourself and not rely on the agents / landlord to do this for you, although it will be very useful if they will also agree to help you advertise your room. Publicise your room as widely as you can including within the University and Students’ Union as well as online.
If you have a single tenancy, then only one person will be needed to take over your contract. If you have a joint contract with others, it is likely that you will need to get the permission of others within the agreement for the replacement to go ahead. The other tenants who are part of the contract do not have to accept the replacement you put forward. However, they should be aware that if the landlord chooses, they could be asked for your rent instead of you. Therefore, it is in their best interests to work with you and find someone to take your place.
Once you have found a replacement and a new contract has been signed, your contract will end. A refund of your damage deposit and a re-protection of the deposits paid by all of the tenants of the new agreement should occur.
As above, it is particularly important to ensure that your leaving is documented and that you are protected against any charges for damages from when you move out. This should be done via way of written confirmation from your landlord so make sure you obtain this from the landlord.
Before you leave the property
Remember to do the following before you leave. Take some photographs of your room and the common parts of the house such as the hall, kitchen and bathroom and keep these safe. These are your proof of the state of the property when you moved out, evidence which may be vital if there is a dispute over your deposit. If possible try to get the landlord to visit on your last day to inspect it with you before you go.
Talk to the other tenants and agree a figure to complete your obligations for utilities if you pay these. You can get an idea as to how much is owed by basing this on what bills you have paid before, or you could take a reading and ask the companies to send out a bill based on these readings.