This information is about housing contracts in the private rented sector and in particular about getting out of a contract. It is based on the most frequently asked questions that students ask the Student Advice Centre..
Most people who rent from private landlords have assured or assured shorthold contracts. These types of contracts can be -
· fixed term (eg 12 months)
· periodic (no fixed term) or
· statutory periodic (fixed term has ended but the tenant has not moved out).
Most students in Sheffield will sign fixed term assured shorthold contracts.
How do I get out of a fixed term private contract?
Most fixed term contracts do not allow the tenant to leave before the end of the fixed term. Many landlords are willing to waive this provided the person leaving finds an acceptable replacement tenant. Alternatively, some landlords will agree to end a contract early in exchange for money. It is unusual for a landlord to simply release you and they do not have to even if for example you are withdrawing from University.
I have a joint tenancy, how do I get out of my contract?
If the contract is fixed term, no-one can get out unless everyone agrees. The person leaving is still liable for the rent unless the other joint tenants agree to pay it or a replacement tenant or a subtenant takes over the vacant room. Any replacement tenant or subtenant must be acceptable to the remaining joint tenants and landlord.
If the contract is periodic, one joint tenant giving notice brings the whole contract to an end, even if the other joint tenants don’t want to leave.
Usually the best solution is to find a replacement tenant for the room/property. You can advertise the room on the student message board www.propertywithus.sheffield.ac.uk/MessageBoard or put up an advert on the SAC Accommodation Board, contact the Student Advice Centre. If you have a joint tenancy, it is best for all concerned to find a suitable replacement tenant who wants to live in the property and pay the rent. By accepting a replacement joint tenants can minimise any potential financial risks to themselves, should the outgoing tenant stop paying rent.
What can happen if I break the contract?
If you break your contract the landlord can take you to court and claim the rent due to the end of the fixed term plus costs and interest. If the landlord's claim is successful and judgement is made against you you must pay or you can get a county court judgement (CCJ) against you which can effect your future credit ratings. It is best to avoid such action where possible. If you are taken to court by the landlord for brealing the contract, you can sometimes make your own claim against the landlord (e.g. for serious repair problems). If you are in this position, please contact the Student Advice Centre for further advice.
If you have a joint tenancy then there is joint and several liability for the rent. This means that if one tenant leaves and stops paying rent the landlord could pursue the remaining joint tenants for any shortfall in rent. They will often try and pursue the person who has left for the unpaid rent but they can take legal action to recover the debt against all joint tenants, It is quite common for joint tenants to have their deposits witheld to cover any shortfall in rent owed by a joint tenant.
You are allowed to give notice when you want to leave. In most situations, the length of notice should be the same as the rental period e.g. monthly. In addition, the notice should normally expire at the end of a rental period.
A tenant pays rent on the 1st of every month. He gives notice on 19th September. The earliest date the notice can expire is 31st October.
Make sure that you give notice in writing.
Most housing contracts restrict or ban subletting. If you sublet without permission your landlord could go to court to evict you.
When you sublet you remain under contract to your landlord. This means you still have to pay your rent, even if your subtenant doesn’t pay you. You will also be responsible for any damage caused by your subtenant and may, in some circumstances, need a court order to make your subtenant leave.
If you have permission to sublet from your landlord, it is a good idea to have a written subletting agreement. Further advice on this is available from the Student Advice Centre.
For information about getting out of a University contract, see here