Deposit Diaries: Early termination of tenancy may cause dispute

An increasingly common theme in recent deposit disputes has been disagreement between the parties about the circumstances surrounding ending a tenancy early.

In a recent case, the landlord sought £400.00 from the tenant’s deposit claiming that the tenant owed rent for the period 24th June 2020 to 30th June 2020.

The tenant disputed the claim saying that they had left the property on 24th June 2020, no rent was owed and that they had returned the keys to a neighbour on 28th June 2020.

The tenancy agreement entered into started in April 2020 and was for a fixed term of twelve months and did not include a break clause. As such, the tenant was contractually obliged to pay rent for the entire term of the tenancy.

It was apparent however from the evidence submitted to us that shortly after the tenancy started, the landlord and tenant had voluntarily reached agreement to end the tenancy earlier than the end of the fixed term. With the landlord’s consent, an agreement was reached for the tenancy to be surrendered on 30th June 2020.

Although the tenant returned the keys to a neighbour on 28th June 2020 and the landlord carried out a check-out inspection on that date (to ensure there was a record as to the condition of the property on the date the tenant left) this did not alter the agreed terms of the surrender, which was for the tenant to be liable for rent up to 30th June 2020. The landlords claim was successful, and the adjudicator made an award for rent owed.

This case highlights the importance of ensuring you have a clear audit trail of any agreement reached between the parties in relation to any negotiations regarding the start, mid-tenancy or end of a tenancy.

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