The tenant doesn’t leave when they are supposed to?

Usually when a tenant wants to leave a property, they give the landlord notice; hopefully in writing. The landlord is then able to start to market the property and carry out property viewings, reference checks are carried out and a new tenancy agreement is signed with the new tenants giving notice to their own landlords.

So far so good.

Then the outgoing tenant says they aren’t going to move, either their plans have been delayed so they need to stay on an extra couple of weeks or they have changed their minds altogether. This puts both the landlord and the new tenants in quite a tricky situation.

Tenants rights

In this situation the new tenants dispute is with the landlord. They cannot insist that the landlord make the new tenants leave and will need to find alternative accommodation for themselves.  The new tenants can seek compensation from the landlord for the inconvenience caused, this ‘compensation’ would seek to put the claimant (the new tenant) into the
same financial position that they would have been had the other party (the landlord) not failed to live up to their part of the agreement. This can include the costs incurred in seeking alternative accommodation.

Landlords rights
If a landlord finds themselves in this position it is important to remember that they cannot force the current tenants to leave.
Landlords should seek to understand the current tenants position;

  • Is the tenants intention to stay on for a extra day or two, a week or two or is this more permanent?
  • If the tenants want to stay on long term is it worth offering a new tenancy agreement?

If the current tenants are failing to communicate, or if an agreeable solution cannot be reached, a landlord can look at using the Distress of rent act 1737 (one of the oldest Housing based regulations still in use).  The Act means that a landlord can charge the current tenants double rent for every  day they overstay the notice period that they gave

The rules are;

  • The tenant must have served a proper valid notice to quit, which has been accepted by the landlord
  • The double rent can only be charged on a daily basis for the period of time the tenant overstays
  • It cannot be used if the tenant just fails to return the keys
  • It cannot be used if the tenant just stays on after the end of the fixed term (in which case in most cases a new periodic tenancy will arise)

Legal advice
This type of situation can be quite complicated and if you are a landlord or tenant in these circumstances and need support you should consider seeking legal advice.