Here is a question to the blog clinic from Sandra (not her real name) who is a landlord
My letting agent agreed a tenancy/move in date with the tenant but I need the date to be one week prior to the agreed date: my agent is telling me I cannot insist the tenancy start date is changed as it is not convenient to the new tenant.
All referencing has been cleared satisfactorily, seems the new tenant is in charge here?
I am not happy at all with my agent.
This is an interesting question. The answer is probably a found somewhere in the interface between contract law and agency law.
Agency law, which is actually a branch of contract law, governs the rules which apply when one person, an agent, is authorised to make contracts on behalf of another person – known in agency law as the ‘principal’ and which in this context is the landlord.
The landlord and the agent
The agent is employed by the landlord and therefore it is the landlord who should be in charge. As the agent is employed to act on the landlord’s behalf.
However the agent’s powers and duties are generally set out in a legal document, the agency agreement. So if the agent is doing something in accordance with that agency agreement, there is not a lot the landlord can do to complain about it – as the landlord has already agreed to it – by signing the agency agreement.
The agent and the tenant
The tenant (ie the third party) does not know what is in the agency agreement – that is private.
As long as the agent is authorised to act on behalf of the landlord, the tenant is therefore entitled to assume that what the agent says is authorised by the landlord. Even if it is something which the landlord did not actually agree to. (Unless it is something so bizarre that no agent would be authorised to do it).
So, in this context, if the agent agrees a start date for the tenancy with the tenant – the tenant is entitled to assume that this has been agreed by the landlord and rely on it.
As it is something which an agent would normally be authorised to do – the landlord is bound by it. Even though actually it was against the landlord’s express instructions.
The landlord and the tenant
Sandra asks in her question whether it is the tenant who is in charge here. The answer is that tenant is not in charge as such, but you cannot force tenants to agree to something they do not want to agree to.
For example, it may not be possible for the tenants to move in one week earlier. If the landlord (via their agents) insist on it – the tenants would have a choice – to agree, reluctantly, to the tenancy starting a week early (which would mean paying for a week when they might not be able to actually live in the property) or to pull out.
However, it is not a good idea to start a long term relationship by antagonising the other party and the agents, who will after all, be the people who have to work with the tenants, no doubt felt that it would be best in all the circumstances to agree to their preferred start date.
What can the landlord do now?
If the agents have agreed a start date with the tenants and the tenancy agreement has been signed – there is not a lot you, the landlord, can do now to change this. You will be bound by the agreement reached on your behalf by the agents.
If the agents have acted in breach of their agency agreement you may have a claim against them. For example, you may want to claim for the lost weeks rent.
However to succeed in this, you would have to be able to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the tenant would – had the agents insisted – agreed to sign to start the tenancy a week early. As opposed to pulling out. Which you may not be able to do.
All in all, it is probably best to accept the situation. However if you are unhappy with the agents, you could look into ending the agency agreement and using another firm in future.
How you do this though will depend on the terms of your agency agreement.
NB If you are unhappy with your letting agents and are considering ending your agency agreement is a guide on Landlord Law which can help.