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Withholding rent

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673 views 5 replies latest reply: 23 December 2016
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Tenant

I’m writing this on behalf of my girlfriend who’s currently lodging. 

Essentially the owner of the property is bizarre, and went from moving her clothes around in her room, to opening her food, to leaving passive aggressive notes around essentially “telling her off” for strange things. Nothing to sinister, just a bit odd.

She found it all a bit too weird & has decided to move out, the issue is she has only lived there for 6 weeks so far so when attempting to give her 4 weeks notice the owner of the house has stated she can only give 4 weeks notice at the end of week 8, thus she’ll have to live in the property until February (12 weeks total); the contract is slightly vague & poorly worded but it does appear to state this in my opinion. Since attempting to give notice the lady has become verbally abusive, locked her in the kitchen & begun acting more unacceptably. She has a new property to move into at the start of January but this means she’ll be contracted to pay rent to both properties.

So my question is what can happen if she just refuses to pay rent for the last 4 weeks when she won’t be living in the property? The owner has already stated she wants the key back as soon as she moves out (January), rather than at the time the contract runs out (February) which seems suggestive she wants to double rent it to me (if that’s a term). 

If she stands her ground, moves out, gives the key back in January & refuses to pay the last 4 weeks rent what sort of issues could arise for her? From what I’ve heard it’s essentially harrassment at this stage, without any proof (but potentially could gather some over the next week or so).

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Tenant

“locked her in the kitchen” – Um, did you call the police ? This is really really unacceptable. Does your girlfriend sleep there ? Does she feel safe ?

In any case, here is the answer to your question: 

The worst case scenario for you is if the landlord drags your girlfriend to court and get a CCJ for the last 4 weeks rent arrears + the legal costs. I’m not sure how likely is this to happen as courts are a big bummer for each side, regardless who wins. 

Outside of that, there is the bad reference that might affect future accommodation efforts, though your girlfriend has covered the immediate need of such. 

What the landlord CAN NOT do is double rent. The law prohibits this, as if a new renter comes along for the time your girlfriend is obligated to pay rent, she should be refunded that rent. 

IF you have to pay rent for these 4 weeks, remember that you’re fully entitled to use the property, including keeping the keys and sleeping there if you wish to. There is no scenario where you turn in the keys and continue to pay rent. 

Your best bet would be to try and record or somehow document this harassment and use it as a leverage to get out of the last 4 weeks rent and just move on. 

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Tenant

I forgot:

If your girlfriend paid a deposit, lodging regulations don’t force the landlord to protect it in a scheme. Thus the landlady is in full control of the deposit and is likely to discount the last 4 weeks rent from it. 

It’s going to be next to impossible to get it back, as it’s your girlfriend’s most important responsibility to pay rent regardless of anything. Even harassment will not justify not paying rent in any official tribunal.

So, if you plan on just going away, keep in mind the deposit. 

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Tenant

Thanks for the response, pretty much what I had thought.

She feels it’s more mind games than anything that will likely escalate to putting her safety at risk, so is willing to deal with it for this last week before moving out. Will try to gather evidence of any further harassment though.

How would we know if the landlord is double renting though – once she moves out she doesn’t plan on going back at all. I suppose the best thing to do is just keep the keys until the end of the contract, that way the landlord would have to change the locks/replace the keys if she wanted to double rent – hopefully enough to put her off.

Thanks for the info about deposit, I had read that the landlord didn’t need to use a protected scheme so that was also a concern – my thoughts were for my girlfriend to pay the difference in rent & deposit rather than full rent (e.g. if rent was £300 & she’d given £200 deposit, just pay £100) & let the landlord take the deposit to make up the difference for the rent – that seems the safest way for her to pay the minimum of the contract & not pay out from her deposit. Because I have no doubt the landlord would make ridiculous deductions from her deposit if she allows her the chance. Would this be a legally sound way to go about it?

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Tenant

Oh also:

The owner has never met me nor had any contact with me whatsoever, but said to my girlfriend if I wanted to stay over I’d have to meet her first, which we agreed to. So I’ve planned on being over on New Years, and now of course the owner is saying I’m not allowed to come.

Presumably we’ve no ground to stand on here & the owner is allowed to deny me access even if she’s only doing it to be spiteful?

Have already booked a hotel as I imagine we don’t have much choice in this scenario, but thought it worth an ask.

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Tenant

Yes, the owner is in full control over access. If it were not a lodging situation, where the landlord didn’t live in the same property, your girlfriend would have control over access.

Also, I would recommend you do some negotiating and try to get out of the last month’s rent, before you go in opposition.

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