Here is a question to the blog clinic fast track from Ali who is a tenant.
My family are tenants in a house. After the initial fixed-term contract, we are currently on a monthly rolling contract.
We had plans to move out of the property to pursue employment abroad. We received a job offer with a suggested a start in November and therefore gave a month’s notice by text to the landlord in late September.
On reflection immediately after, due to multiple difficulties in getting accommodation and child care in the new location, not to mention the resurgence of COVID, in general, we felt it would be better to stay in the current location/job until the new arrangements could be definitively sorted and hopefully the COVID wave was receding. The employers in the new job were happy to defer a start there to even the start of 2021.
Within 48 hours of the initial text, we informed the landlord that we would not be moving and prefer to stay in the current house and job for the time being. The landlord has said that they want us out by the end of the one month period and are not willing to negotiate any delay in leaving the property.
Up to this point, we have had an amicable relationship with the landlord. Clearly, even if we take up the new jobs at a later point, getting an ultrashort rental of less than 6 months locally is proving extremely difficult to impossible. There are barely weeks to go before the moving out date and we wanted to know if we have any legal rights to stay on in our current location until such time that we can make our move abroad more securely and safely.
Yes, you are entitled to remain in the property. All residential tenants have the right to remain until such time as a court order for possession has been made, and even then you can wait until a bailiffs appointment or High Court Enforcement Officer appointment.
It is only at that stage that you can legally be physically evicted from the property and then only by the proper County Court authorised bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer (formerly known as the Sheriffs).
So yes, you are legally entitled to remain.
The things which worries me though is that there is a very old piece of legislation, the Distress for Rent Act 1737, which provides that if a tenant gives a tenants ‘Notice to Quit’ and then fails to vacate, the landlord is entitled to charge double rent until you move out. I wrote about this here.
There is not, so far as I am aware, any recent authority on precisely what will constitute a ‘tenant’s notice to quit’ other than the fact I suppose that it should be in writing. I don’t know whether a text message would qualify.
If the landlord became aware of the double rent rule and sought to enforce it, you could maybe argue that a text message does not constitute a legal ‘notice to quit’. Hopefully, however, your landlord will not become aware of this as it is not well known. If you pay your rent promptly and on time he may not take any action.
So my advice is to stay where you are but if your job offer is still available you may want to take it up fairly soon.
Following on from this, my advice to tenants generally is that you should be very careful before giving your landlord notice to quit and should only do this once you are really sure that you wish to leave.