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Taking keys, still charging rent

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704 views 4 replies latest reply: 04 January 2017
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Tenant

Hi there,

Posting regards to a situation someone I know has landed up in & was wondering where they stood legally.

They’re lodging in a property, and had been having issues with the owner of the property who’d been acting strange & been verbally abusive fairly regularly for no reason. Because of this they’ve decided to hand in their notice and move out – the contract states they must stay for 12 weeks, so notice has been handed in at 8 weeks but they have also now got a new property and are technically moving out on week 8 as they don’t want to suffer for another 4 weeks at the hands of the owner. 

I went with them to the property to clean it out and move their stuff out, we then went back later to discuss deposit etc. with the owner, who said that the room was adequately cleaned and there were no issues so a full refund of the deposit would be had, great. The issue arose when the owner demanded the keys to the property back – I stated legally the room is paid for for another 4 weeks & they shouldn’t have to give the keys back as they still have the right to use the room for the next four weeks, if the owner wanted to have the keys back (presumably to rent to a new tenant lined up) then they should terminate the contract and the final 4 weeks of rent shouldn’t be due.

Naturally that sent them into a rage & they demanded I leave the house immediately & they’d only deal with my friend – as we were wanting to be entirely above board & legal I respected their request & had to leave – I told my friend to come with me but the owner demanded they stay & unfortunately they listened. The owner told them they will use the deposit to change the locks if they don’t give the key back immediately; and eventually got the key off them (didn’t want to give it, but felt they had to if they wanted to get out of the house safely). 

So now the owner has the lodgers keys, and is still expecting them to pay the final 4 weeks of rent – even though they now have no access.

So my question is are there any laws here that would protect my friend if they refused to pay the final four weeks rent on the grounds they have no access to what they’re paying for? It doesn’t seem a particularly fair situation to be in, and if they hadn’t “given” the keys back the locks would’ve been changed anyway with rent still expected.

Thanks in advance.

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Tenant

The landlord is not fair at all. 

If your friend pays for 4 more weeks, they are fully entitled to have 100% access, as if they lived there full time.

If the landlord wants the keys they should not charge the rent. Since the landlord is likely going to rent it out again ASAP, you can find out if there is another renter and sue. It’s illegal to double rent. IF the landlord wants to rent the place again, they must refund the rent to your friend.

Having said that, there is still the issue of the deposit. Lodgers don’t get many rights that full AST tenants get. That includes no deposit protection scheme, which makes the landlord full in charge of the deposit money. 

Given the aggressive behaviour of the landlord, the “smooth” return of the money may not happen as smooth, if at all. 

Thus, your friend may consider not paying the last 4 weeks of rent and abandoning the deposit entirely. Which will make sure they at least get to keep one, which isn’t a guarantee if they pay the rent now and try to get the deposit after 4 weeks of time. 

Not the best outcome, but your other option is to go directly to the small claims courts and seek both the rent money and the deposit, under the give circumstances.

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Tenant

Cheers for the response.

The issue is we will have no way of knowing if the landlord is now double-renting, I know that it’s illegal to double rent but without having any access to the property, and obviously with the issue of not feeling safe with the owner, there isn’t really a way of them finding out.

This is why I was asking if there was any law that prohibited blocking access to the property whilst also charging rent – as that’s essentially the situation they’re in now. If there is a law to show that once they’ve taken the keys & stopped access, that they’ve terminated the contract essentially – if we had that law to show them then I’d be confident they’d be able to stop paying without the owner taking them to court; as going to court is something my friend wants to avoid.

In terms of deposit the owner said they’d give a full refund (and we recorded the conversation; legally), and did write a cheque, however spelt both my friends first & second name wrong, they’re going to try & cash it in but if it doesn’t then I’ve told them to deduct the deposit cost from the final 4 weeks rent so that they at worst only lose the 4 weeks rent cash, and no money from the deposit. However obviously if we can prove what the owner has done is illegal, they’ll not pay any rent & either only lose the deposit, or if it cashes in they’ll lose nothing which would be ideal of course.

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Tenant

By paying rent, you’re legally entitled to occupy the property until the end date of the notice. As a legal tenant, which your friend is, you have a right to undisturbed occupancy of the property for which you pay rent. 

This is called a “Right for quiet enjoyment”. 

This is more pronounced for AST tenants, but lodgers also benefit somewhat from this rule. 

However, one law that clearly defines what the landlord is doing is “Protection from Eviction Act 1977

Here is an except:

(2)If any person unlawfully deprives the residential occupier of any premises of his occupation of the premises or any part thereof, or attempts to do so, he shall be guilty of an offence unless he proves that he believed, and had reasonable cause to believe, that the residential occupier had ceased to reside in the premises.

(3)If any person with intent to cause the residential occupier of any premises—

(a)to give up the occupation of the premises or any part thereof; or

(b)to refrain from exercising any right or pursuing any remedy in respect of the premises or part thereof;

does acts calculated to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or members of his household, or persistently withdraws or withholds services reasonably required for the occupation of the premises as a residence, he shall be guilty of an offence.

This clearly describes what your friend’s landlord is doing and it is illegal eviction and harassment. Use it as you wish, but please remember that we’re not lawyers and we can be wrong, so don’t do anything legal (like a court action) before you consult a real legal professional or at least Shelter.

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Tenant

Thanks for the responses. 

That gives us something to go off. 

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