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I have just moved into a rental (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) student flat. Three of the tenants carried over the tenancy from the previous year and I am coming in as a fourth tenant to fill an empty bedroom. The tenancy was organised properly through the letting agency who manage the entire student block and correctly checked my eligibility to reside in the UK (I'm a UK citizen). The previous three person rental contract came to an end in July and I signed a new contract with all four of our names on it. I did not sublet the room from another tenant - I am a full tenant in my own right.

However, the letting agency has not taken an inventory of the house or conducted a recent check-in report. They say that, since I am joining an existing tenancy, I am therefore one-quarter liable for all damages which have occurred since July 2016 despite the fact I only moved in two days ago. This triggered so many red flags in my head, in particular as some of the damages are significant (e.g. the sofa arm was snapped off when I arrived which won't be cheap to replace or fix).

My contract makes no mention of what happens in the event of tenancy partial occupancy change. I did not sign anything which says I should be liable for damages a year before I moved in. The contract does not mention being a continuation of the previous contract. It's just a July 2017 to July 2018 AST fixed term contract with all four tenant names on it stating the usual stuff about being responsible for putting out recycling at the correct times & reporting maintenance issues quickly.

So...

  1. Am I right in thinking this situation is a huge red flag?
  2. Is it too late to deal with now given that the contract started in July and I moved in two days ago?
  3. Do I have to compile the inventory myself if the letting agency won't?
  4. Do I have a right to force the letting agency to agree & countersign a fair and accurate inventory?
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Usual disclaimer: I'm not an expert; if in doubt, consult someone who is.

Am I right in thinking this situation is a huge red flag?

Possibly, and it would be worth discussing this with the letting agency.

However, it could be argued that this is more of a problem for the letting agency than for you. This is because you can prove when you became a tenant, but without a new inventory they can't prove when any damage occurred.

Of course, in the event of a dispute, they could reasonably charge your housemates instead, as they were present throughout the period in question.

Is it too late to deal with now given that the contract started in July and I moved in two days ago?

No. It's always worth having the discussion, even if nothing comes of it.

Do I have to compile the inventory myself if the letting agency won't?

If you want a new inventory and the agency isn't willing to do it, then yes. If you have a copy of the one from the start of the original tenancy, use that as a guide to the level of detail required, and take lots of photos.

Do I have a right to force the letting agency to agree & countersign a fair and accurate inventory?

No. You can ask, but they're under no obligation to agree.

(Note that letting agents often hire inventory clerks to do inventories, so you could in theory do the same, if you didn't want to do the inventory yourself.)

See also here and here.


To deal with some other issues raised in the question:

The first of the above links suggests that:

In this new tenancy agreement, include an individually negotiated clause which binds all tenants to the inventory which was created at the start of the original tenancy. It should be made clear to the incoming tenant, in writing, that their deposit refund will be based on this document.

But you said:

I did not sign anything which says I should be liable for damages a year before I moved in.

This would suggest that any dispute would be found in your favour (but if in doubt, consult an expert).

My contract makes no mention of what happens in the event of tenancy partial occupancy change...The contract does not mention being a continuation of the previous contract.

This is normal. Because there is a change of tenant, this is a brand new tenancy, even if it's relying on an old inventory. Even without a change of tenant, tenancy agreements don't usually make mention of any previous agreements.

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