Consumer organisation Which? has slammed both letting agents and landlords for refusing to let tenants leave properties during the Coronavirus crisis, or making it difficult for them to do so.
Which? says tenants are being put under pressure to stay put because landlords and their letting agents believe they would struggle to find new tenants during the lockdown.
This is being achieved via either refusing to allow tenants to activate break clauses in their contracts or threatening to withhold the deposits of renters who have given notice and want to move out.
One renter in a shared house in Leytonstone, east London, said her agreement stated that it cost £300 to leave before the tenancy ends in August.
But her letting agent refused the request, saying it was down to the landlord’s discretion. He wouldn’t give her permission to leave under the current circumstances, saying it would be difficult to find a new tenant.
Another couple in Gloucestershire needed to move somewhere cheaper as they were out of work, but were told by their landlord that he couldn’t find new tenants and asked them to stay on a rolling basis until social distancing measures had been relaxed. He added that they would be breaking the law and social-distancing rules and refused to return their £1,000 deposit or provide a reference.
Which? says that if a private tenancy agreement contained a break clause, tenants should be able to use it to move out before the tenancy ended.