Here is a question to the blog clinic from Carolyn who is a tenant
I recently tried to rent a property through an agent that went horribly wrong.
I viewed the property, which at the time was empty and paid a deposit to an agent. My tenancy was due to start on 1st February, but on 28th January, I was told that there was an illegal tenant and that he would be out by 7th February.
I was given an assured new moving date of 8th February. A few days before, I was told once again, that I would not be able to move on 8th and the date was rescheduled to 14th February, but again, this didn’t happen.
When I called the landlord, he said he knew nothing about the illegal tenant and said I should have been able to move in, but the agent says he has proof of the situation.
I have now got a refund of my deposit but I am nearly £1000 out of pocket due to this fiasco. What are my rights?
You don’t say whether or not you signed a tenancy agreement. This is important.
If you signed a tenancy agreement
If you signed a tenancy agreement then this is a legally binding agreement which has been broken by the landlord – who is liable for the things done, or not done, by his agent.
You are entitled to be put in the position you would have been in had the contract been properly performed. So you are entitled to the refund of all additional expenses incurred by you. Such as additional removal fees, hotel expenses etc.
Also, if you are unable to find a similar property at he same price, you will be entitled to claim the difference in the rent you have to pay for the fixed term of the tenancy you signed.
So if you signed a tenancy for a fixed term of six months at a rent of £500 but you have to rent somewhere at £550 then you will ne able to claim back the extra £50 for the six months.
The fact that the agent was physically unable to let you into the property because there was an illegal occupant will be no defence to this. They should have made sure that the property was available before they signed you up.
If you did not sign a tenancy agreement
If you did not sign a tenancy agreement then you may have a claim for the lost removal expenses etc relating to the changed dates (depending on the circumstances and what was said or done at the time).
However, you will not have the claim for any subsequent difference in rent you have to pay for the new property you find (if there is any).
Generally your rights will not be as strong.
Who do you sue?
In either case the person you sue will be the landlord not the agent.
Under agency law it is the principal (in this case the landlord) who is liable for the acts done by his agent. In most cases, whether they were authorised by him or not.
You first need to check that you have proof of all your expenses, for example receipts – keep them safe.
Then write to both the agents and the landlord setting out the details of your claim and requesting payment within 14 days. See if you can negotiate some sort of settlement with them.
If they fail to respond, you may want to seek a bit of advice from a litigation solicitor before actually starting any court claim.