The accidental landlord warns against letting to tenants on separate contracts

The accidental landlord feels guilty when a girl who must leave still has to stump up the rent.

The thing is, I knew right from the start that it was a bad idea to accept two sharers in a two-bedroom flat, so why did I say yes? I’d advertised the flat as a single unit and two friends put an offer on it straight away, but they didn’t mention until I presented them with the tenancy agreement that they wanted two individual contracts, one for each room.

I wasn’t keen because I was concerned that if one tenant left before the end of the term but the other stayed, I’d be responsible for filling the empty room, which is often harder than letting a whole property.

However, as both girls insisted they wanted to stay for a full 12 months, and they seemed really nice, I agreed, but I explained that if one of them did decide to leave before the end of the term, they would both have to go so that I could re-let the property as a single unit. I made it clear I wasn’t going to take responsibility for finding either one of them a new flatmate.

“Sure,” they said, “that’s all good.”

Five months later one of girls contacted me to say she was moving out due to ill-health. She said she needed to return to her home country within a few weeks for medical treatment. Though she could have used the break clause in the contract to give me notice, she refused to do so because she was aware that this would prompt me to give her flatmate notice, too. Instead, she asked to transfer the remainder of her tenancy to someone else.

I wasn’t opposed to this idea in principle, but I warned her that it was financially risky for her. What if she didn’t find someone to take over her contract? What if she found someone but they failed a credit check, or changed their mind at the last minute? Then she would have to cover the rent herself.

I urged her to give me two months’ notice instead, after which she could leave the property with no further financial obligations. She refused in order to protect her flatmate.

“I won’t see her kicked out,” she said, turning all drama-queenie on me. “I’ll do anything to stop her becoming homeless.”

I pointed out this was highly unlikely, given that her flatmate would have two months to find somewhere else to live. She had a solid job with a decent salary - I didn’t think she would have much difficulty finding a new place.

However, the tenant was adamant she would find someone to take over her tenancy and she insisted that if she didn’t, she was prepared to pay the rent for her room herself for the rest of the year.

Now she has returned home and — as I feared — she didn’t succeed in finding anyone to take over her tenancy, so she has to pay rent for six months on a room she isn’t using.

Actually, so far, she has been true to her word and paid for next month, but I wonder how long she will keep up these payments. Now that there is an ocean between this girl and her flatmate, I am worried she might forget her promise — and her rent will stop arriving.

At the same time, I am not 100 per cent comfortable with taking money from someone who is no longer living in my property. It doesn’t feel right to me, so I have toyed with the idea of giving both girls notice to bring the matter to a swift conclusion. However, as neither of them has done anything yet to justify me ending their tenancies, I suppose I will just have to wait and see what happens.

  • Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock


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