Here is a question to the blog clinic from Andrew (not his real name) who is a tenant
I have signed 12-month tenancy agreement. The day before we were due to move in the landlord informs us that the current tenants have changed the locks and refusing to leave. The wife is pregnant so there is no chance of being evicted soon.
We have already committed to move out of our current accommodation and are now homeless.
Can I sue the landlord for breach of contract?
Short answer: Yes.
In most cases the landlord will have no defence to a breach of contract claim. You have made a binding legal agreement with the landlord for accommodation in exchange for the payment of rent. The landlord has failed to deliver and so is liable under the contract.
The landlord’s liability to you
If the landlord can’t honour his side of the bargain then you are entitled to sue him for
- Any extra costs incurred by you for accommodation and
- General damages for stress and inconvenience
So that means that if you are able to find somewhere else to live but it is £200 pm more expensive than the property you had signed for – the landlord is liable to pay that £200 per month to you (for the fixed term) as it is a loss you have suffered as a result of his breach of contract.
The landlord will also be liable for the additional (reasonable) cost of any hotel accommodation if it takes you a while to find accommodation. Plus the cost of storage of your possessions in the meantime.
But check the tenancy agreement you have signed first. It may have a clause in it making your tenancy conditional upon vacant possession being given up by the outgoing tenants.
Even if it does, though, that may not be effective against someone who has actually rendered themselves homeless by relying on the landlord’s assurance that the accommodation will be available to them.
The outgoing tenants rights
Note by the way that the outgoing tenants are perfectly entitled, legally, to stay in the property. All tenants can stay in the property until evicted by the court bailiffs (or High Court Sheriffs) under a Court Order for possession.
This is why it is unwise for landlords to sign a tenancy agreement with a new tenant until they have vacant possession of the property.