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Which? claims landlords are ‘blocking tenant moves’

Some landlords are refusing to allow tenants move out during the coronavirus crisis for fear of being unable to find new tenants.

This is the claim made by the consumer organisation Which?

Tenants are claiming some private landlords are not honouring break clauses in tenancy agreements while others say landlords are pressuring tenants to continue renting even though tenancy agreements have ended, claims Which?

It cites the case of ‘Chelsea’, who lives in a shared house in Leytonstone, east London. Her freelancer income has dried up and she decided to end her tenancy early, incurring a £300 penalty. But her letting agent refused her request, saying it was at the landlord’s discretion as to whether or not she could exercise the break. And the landlord would not give permission for her to leave under the current circumstances.

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

Although Gloucester tenant Joel Richardson’s rental agreement ends in May, his landlord has asked him to stay on. Now unemployed, 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’.

Once a tenancy is over, the contract with the landlord has ended and tenants have no contractual obligation to them, says Which? ‘You can move out. If a private landlord is trying to withhold your deposit, contact the deposit scheme’.

Which? pointed out that research from lettings agency Hamptons found that seven out of 10 tenancies due to end in March had been renewed, the highest level of March renewals since 2008. ‘Your current tenancy will usually continue as a periodic tenancy if your fixed-term contract ends as long as you still live there’, said Which?

Government advice is for tenants, agents and landlords to work together and show goodwill towards each other to overcome difficulties during the coronavirus lockdown.

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