Can I change my mind after I’ve signed the tenancy agreement?

I've signed a tenancy agreement that starts soon but I've changed my mind about moving into the property. Currently, I've only paid £100 for an agency fee but if I change my mind about moving in will I have to pay more money? Am I even allowed to change my mind? Can you tell me what to do next?

Before you do anything it’s important to establish what type of tenancy agreement you’ve signed because this will affect your rights. If you are renting privately and your landlord lives elsewhere you are likely to have an assured short hold tenancy. If this isn’t the type of tenancy you have this information won’t apply, but you can get further help and information from a local advice service.

The fact that you have signed the contract, means that essentially you’re bound by it, whether you’ve paid any money or not. So, if you don’t want to move in you need to bring your tenancy to an end. If you don’t end your tenancy properly you may still be liable to pay rent, but your landlord will only be able to get this money from you if they have not been able to find another tenant for the property, however they aren’t obliged to find someone else. Whether or not you or your landlord can end the tenancy, and how you can end it, depends on the type of tenancy and what your tenancy agreement says.

Your tenancy will either be a fixed term or a periodic tenancy. A fixed term tenancy is for a set period of time such as six months or one year. A periodic tenancy is not for a set period of time.

If you have a fixed term tenancy you can end it on the last day of the fixed term. But if you want to end it before the end of the fixed term you will need to check your tenancy agreement to see if it allows you to end the tenancy early. Some fixed term tenancy agreements state that tenants are allowed to give notice and end the tenancy early; this is known as a ‘break clause’. If your tenancy agreement doesn’t have a break clause you can only leave early if your landlord agrees. If possible, you should get this agreement in writing.

If you’re a periodic tenant you can end your tenancy by giving four weeks’ notice to your landlord. The notice must be longer if the tenancy agreement says so or if you pay your rent monthly or even less frequently. The notice must be in writing and end on a day when the rent is due. All periodic tenants can end the tenancy giving less than four weeks’ notice if the landlord agrees. Once again, you should get this agreement in writing if possible.

The first thing to do is to talk to your landlord and explain the situation, whether you’re on a fixed term or periodic tenancy. Try to come to an agreement with them and get them to write it down.

If you choose to leave the tenancy early when you don’t have the right to do so you will continue to owe rent to your landlord and your landlord is entitled to take action to claim this rent money from you. They can do this up until the time when you would have been able to end the tenancy. Your landlord will only be able to get this money from you if they don’t get another tenant for the period you were supposed to live there.

Fixed term tenants can be held responsible for the rent until the end of the fixed term. For periodic tenants it is until you or your landlord could have ended the tenancy by serving a notice.

If you have no choice but to leave early the best way to avoid paying rent is to have someone else take over the tenancy. To avoid problems the landlord would have to agree to the new tenant taking over. If the landlord doesn’t accept the new tenant you may be able to negotiate to pay just part of the rent you owe.

But if you do leave early without your landlord’s agreement they could take court action to reclaim the rent from you. The court will decide whether you should pay your landlord the money or not. Your landlord should try to let out the property again, if they do they can’t charge you rent as well.

If you’d like more information or help you can discuss your situation at your local housing aid centre.

Answered by Shelter on 20-Mar-2014

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