Here is a question to the blog clinic from Sarah who is a tenant
In June 2015 our letting agent sent a tenancy renewal contract to us by email via their electronic system. We did not sign the agreement, a second contract was issued and sent to us in July. One tenant progressed through the online process but the other tenant did not as they weren’t happy with the terms, so the online tenancy renewal did not complete and the renewal contract was not issued.
The agent wrote to us later in July saying both tenants needed to sign the electronic agreement, a third copy was issued.
Again one tenant progressed through the online process but the other did not as wasn’t happy. Still the system had not generated a renewal contract at this point, because it does not do so until both joint tenants have submitted their signatures.
We wrote to the Agent in August with our list of queries and concerns about the agreement. No response was ever received.
We believe we are entitled to give statutory periodic notice now as we had not renewed, but the agent are saying we are legally bound until June 2016. We have asked for copies of the signed agreement they refer to, but the copy contract sent to us is blank and hasn’t been signed by anybody.
Are we entitled to give statutory notice to quit on the basis that a renewal had not been completed?
It looks to me as if your tenancy must be periodic, as the fixed term renewal was never completed.
Under section 5 of the Housing Act 1988 a new periodic tenancy will arise at the end of a tenancy fixed term if the tenants remain in occupation. This happens automatically and will run from month to month (assuming rent is paid monthly).
This periodic tenancy can only be ended:
- By the tenants signing for a new fixed term
- By court order
- By one or both tenants serving a Notice to Quit, or
- By the tenants giving up vacant possession
The only way, to my knowledge, one of joint tenants can end a tenancy is by serving notice to quit. However, for the tenancy to be replaced by a new tenancy – particularly if this involves a change in terms and conditions – both tenants must agree.
In this case, only one of the tenants has agreed. But that tenant does not have authority to agree to a new tenancy on behalf of the second tenant – who made it clear anyway that she was unhappy with the terms provided.
Also, the agent on behalf of the landlord specifically stated that the renewal was dependent upon both tenants signing the online form.
So my view is that the new fixed term never took effect and you have a periodic tenancy. You are therefore entitled to give notice (which must not be less than one month’s notice and which must end at the end of a period of your tenancy) and then leave.
A blank unsigned tenancy form is not proof of renewal!