What are my rights in this rent situation if I am not on a contract?
June 18, 2016 2:55 AM   Subscribe

[UK renter question]. I don't have a contract/lease and I'm being asked for rent beyond my move out date. What are my rights?

I'm living in a house share in the UK. I am not on a lease or on a contract for it, having not signed anything. I pay my rent directly to the estate agent. I paid my damage deposit to the person who had the room before me.

The rent is paid mid month (15th).

I moved in on the first of the month 5 months ago. I was verbally told by a roommate that the notice period was one month and I had to give notice on 1st of the month.

I gave my notice June first to move out July 1st by email to my roommates, and copied the estate agent. I then paid through to the 1st of July.

Mid month, the estate agent emailed to say that the full rent hadn't been paid on the house. However, my roommates are responding by saying I need to pay month through to July 15th, even though gave a month's notice that I would move out on the 1st of July. They also seem to be suggesting that it is up to me to find my replacement.

What are my rights in this situation if I am not on a lease or contract, and how can I proceed?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total)
No lease or contract? Seriously? Then move out, how are the estate agent going to collect if they don't have anything signed by you saying you'd pay rent? They have no legal leg to stand on.
You're not going to get your damage deposit back because they've not taken it, they're relying on the next person paying you their deposit. So if you HAD signed a contract they'd be breaking the law by not putting the deposit in a registered rental deposit scheme.

Just move out and ignore their calls.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:23 AM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

And next time, sign a contract! It gives you so many more rights and protects you from dodgy landlords like this.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:33 AM on June 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am not a lawyer. But my lawyer friend has told me that even if you didn't sign a 'formal' contract, written agreements in email form can constitute as evidence. Even a simple 'I agree' on an email is an agreement, and can be used as evidence.

However, I have been in similar informal houseshare situations like this before, right down to paying damage deposit to the person before. First of all, I understand what you said your roommate about one month notice on the 1st of the month. But most people don't deal with pro-rata rental payments, as it makes things hard for everyone -- moving, payments, pro-rata rent. July 15 is reasonable, in my opinion.

Second, roommates have been required to find their replacement, if only to get their damage deposits back.

You have two weeks to find a renter. Should be tough but manageable, if the rent is reasonable/ low, especially in Central London. Post up ads immediately on Moveflat, Spareroom, Gumtree.

Get your damage deposit back from the next person immediately, email everyone saying that your replacement will pay pro-rata rent from July 1 to July 15.
posted by moiraine at 10:05 AM on June 18, 2016

Not a lawyer, but given the informality of the whole rental agreement and the fact that there are no obligations in writing, I would run with the very much common written one month notification of intent to vacate, and get out even a couple days before that.

If you don't want the hassle of finding someone to lease the place as your replacement, and you're willing to forfeit a damage deposit, don't bother. There's nothing in writing that obligates you to do this according to what you've said.

I can see no reason why you would have to give the landlord 15 extra days rent. I'm assuming you paid for the 15 days that you lived there from the first of the month to the fifteenth day either prior to moving in, or on the day the rent was due. If you didn't do so, then you owe 15 days rent. If you did, why would you have to pay for an empty rental when you gave the legal month's notice to vacate?

If you have time, and are sure you can find a replacement, then go ahead and do so, and go ahead and try to claim your damage deposit. I would think you would then be accepting the legal responsibility to find another renter by your actions. What if you can't find one? Are you then obligated to pay for the empty rental until it's filled? Even with an email notifying everyone that the replacement will pay the rent from July 1 to 15, how does that legally obligate him to do so, and are you on the hook if he disputes that? Seems to me that if you put anything in writing that suggests you might be obligated to do that, you accept that contractually.

Also, I've never heard of anyone giving a damage deposit to the prior renter. That seems really an iffy situation that any smart landlord wouldn't touch. Suppose you give the past renter a damage deposit of $100 prior to your moving in, Unfortunately, the landlord then comes to you and says there's been $500 in damages, and he wants the money for repairs. You turn over the $100, but who's on the hook for the extra $400? It's your word against the previous tenant that the damage was done prior to you moving in, unless there has been a documented walk-through with both parties acknowledging what damage was done. How is the new renter obligated to give you anything? You have no contract with him to do so, correct? Once he pays the landlord his rental, i don't see how you have any claim on him for any money. There may be some sort of informal agreement that this is done, but no legal agreement that he has to give you a nickle. What happens if the landlord comes to you and says you've done damage in excess of the amount given to you by the previous renter?

First I'd check anything you have put into writing that may obligate you to any of this. Then I'd get the heck out of there, and make sure you get a real contract that spells out in writing what your rights and obligations are and will protect you (and your landlord) next time.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've never heard of anyone giving a damage deposit to the prior renter.

Just to reiterate, this is illegal in the UK (illegal for the landlord to ask you to do this, not for the tenant to do it). The landlord MUST take your deposit and put it in a specific "deposit protection scheme" account.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:27 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

In fact if the estate agent gives you any hassle, ask about the deposit protection scheme. Remind them that if they haven't used one, they are liable to pay you 3x the deposit.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:34 PM on June 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would really, *really* like it if non-UK based MeFites would not comment on UK-specific legal questions.Unless you have specific knowledge of the ins and outs of our legal system your advice is likely to be *completely* unhelpful. (Although I’ve now managed to flag the wrong comment, so erk.)

OP: Go talk to Shelter. They are your best source of free advice on housing issues.

Do not take legal advice on UK housing from randoms on the internet, including me :)
posted by pharm at 2:53 AM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding Shelter as the best place to get advice.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:17 PM on June 19, 2016

My advice was specific to informal housing arrangements, of which I have been part of, in London. The OP indicates that such was his/ her position. My answer was best suited to escaping an informal housing arrangement with the least amount of cost and hassle. People enter into informal housing arrangements (without lease and such) due to flexibility and low rents, and being unable to afford further costs.

The laws on damage deposit vary between England and Scotland (and Wales and NI), and furthermore, it is not universal that landlords have to put money in a tenancy deposit scheme (lodger, halls of residence, landlord lives there as well). Up until 2011, Scotland did not even have such a scheme. Without further information from the OP, we cannot deduce this and it would be wrong to make that assumption.
posted by moiraine at 12:32 AM on June 20, 2016

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