This is a question to the blog clinic from John whose daughter is a student tenant:
My daughter is a first year student at Lincoln Uni and this week signed up to a 12-bed accommodation for her 2nd year, starting Sept 2012 – 9 months away.
She wasn’t too comfortable with signing as it seemed too big so when she saw a 3-bed place she wanted to try and get out of the 12-bed place.
She spoke to the landlord a day or two after signing and he said it would be no problem as long as she could find a replacement which which she duly did the same day – the replacement has already signed up, all within the same week.
However the landlord has now called her demanding £100 as she broke her contract – is this right?
I should start by saying that generally if you sign a tenancy agreement as tenant you are bound by this. There is no right to a ‘cooling off period’ unless you signed up without seeing the property first (in which case the Distance Selling Regs will apply – see here).
It is also difficult to answer definitely as I have not seen the paperwork. However if the landlord told your daughter that she could end her part of the contract if she found a replacement, and she then found a replacement who signed up, I don’t think he can suddenly demand a payment of £100 out of the blue, if this was not mentioned earlier.
He MAY be able to make a charge though if he warned your daughter that there would be a payment due to cover the extra administration work involved in signing up a new tenant. You need to have a word with your daughter about this. She may have forgotten.
However if she is positive that he did not mention the payment, then I think she can respond saying that this was not part of the agreement, she did as he requested by finding a new replacement tenant and he is not entitled to make a charge retrospectively. She could also perhaps seek advice from the accommodation office.
If the accommodation office think the charge is unjustified they may be prepared to help her. Landlords do not normally want to upset accommodation offices as this is usually where they advertise to find new tenants.
What does anyone else think?