Which? Claims Landlords Stopping Tenants Moving During Coronavirus

The consumer organisation Which? is claiming that some landlords are stopping tenants from moving out in fear of being unable to let their property afterwards.

The organisation has been contacted by tenants saying that their landlords are refusing to honour break clauses in tenancy agreements; it also claims that some landlords are applying ‘pressure’ on tenants whose agreements have ended to continue renting their properties.

It mentions the case of ‘Chelsea’ who lives in a shared house in Leytonstone whose freelancer work has dried up because of the pandemic, she took the decision to end her tenancy early which would incur a £300 penalty. However the letting agent told her that it was down to the landlord as to whether she could leave mid tenancy and because of the current situation her request had been denied.

Which? said: “Landlords should not be able to choose whether or not they will allow the tenant to leave under a break clause.

“If this is the case it could be argued that this amounted to an unfair term under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

“Others tenants are having problems with tenancies that are coming to an end during the lockdown.”

Gloucester tenant Joel Richardson who is now unemployed told Which? that his tenancy agreement finishes in May, but his landlord told him it is in his ‘own best interest’ to stay on.

Richardson says: “I know we’re not bound to stay, but the landlord says that if we leave, we’ll be breaking the law and social-distancing rules. He says that because of this, he won’t return our £1,000 deposit and won’t be able to give us a reference.”

The organisation states that any tenant is under no legal obligation to the landlord once the tenancy agreement has been ended and said:”You can move out. If a private landlord is trying to withhold your deposit, contact the deposit scheme.”

Which? cites research from a lettings agency which found that 70% of tenancies that had been due to end in March had in fact been renewed and a spokesperson added: “Your current tenancy will usually continue as a periodic tenancy if your fixed-term contract ends as long as you still live there.”

The government has provided advice to agents, landlords and tenants in working together during the lockdown.

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