In October last year (2019), I (22, M) moved into a houseshare in Bristol to attend my final year of university. I signed the contract knowing that I would be moving out after exams finished in May/June, which the landlord said was fine provided I found a suitable replacement. This was proved in December when one of my housemates moved out and there was a new tenant in 2 days later.
Forward to March, coronavirus shuts down the university and everything moves online, so I decide to move back home to be with my family and hopefully save some money on rent. On the 22nd March, I posted an advert on Facebook marketplace and my landlord assured he would do the same (he did not). I was immediately inundated with messages from eager prospective tenants wanting to move in ASAP. As the landlord instructed, I passed on his email address to suitable prospective tenants.
A few days passed, and I had not heard anything, so I messaged my landlord for an update and he responded that due to new social distancing rules he would not be able to do any viewings, so finding a new tenant would be unlikely. I informed the landlord that the other housemates all said that they were happy to host viewings themselves either in person or via video, which he ignored. Repeated follow up messages regarding this and asking about the possibility of subletting for a month or two were similarly ignored. Eventually I called him to discuss the situation, and he told me that he would not allow subletting under any circumstances (did not provide a reason) and to find someone who could show proof of income and three months rent upfront, and he would do his best to move them in as soon as possible.
I found four people who had proof of income and were happy to pay the three months upfront, all wanting to move in ASAP. After informing the landlord of this, I was again repeatedly ignored and heard nothing back until 1st April when rent was due, which, reluctantly, I paid. The landlord then told me that again due to coronavirus, the earliest somebody would be able to move in would be the 1st May.
I continued to pass on his contact details to those who seemed suitable, letting the landlord know the names to look out for in his emails. I had passed on the details to over 20 suitable candidates, but heard nothing back from the landlord. Eager to not have to waste rent for a second month, I sent messages asking for an update on the 21st, 24th, 27th, and 30th April. I did not receive a reply until the 30th, when the landlord informed me that he would now be unable to move anyone in until the 1st June, but that he did not see a problem with moving someone in then.
May passed by, and I continued to direct people to the landlord, and continued to be ignored when I informed him or asked for updates. Around the 24th May, I decided to message back one of the prospective tenants asking if they had had a viewing/heard back from the landlord. To my surprise, they told me that they had sent an email but received no reply, so had assumed the room had been taken. I contacted the landlord about this and (surprise surprise) he did not reply. I decided to ask a few more prospective tenants about this, and all of them had messaged him and either been declined a viewing or got no reply at all. When I confronted the landlord about this, he simply said that he gets a lot of emails and he's too busy to go through them all, and to pass on his mobile number instead.
By this point, it was now 1st June and there was still nobody to take the room. The landlord spoke to me and said that rent was still due, however I would be reimbursed when someone else moved in, which the landlord assured me would be within a week as he had several viewings booked. I was hesitant, but knowing that I had sent many more people to him, I once again paid.
Passing on his number managed to get a few people booked into viewings, however nowhere near as many as people I spoke to. I decided to chase up the prospective tenants again to see if the landlord had responded. It may not come as a surprise that the responses I got back consisted mainly of:
'he read my message but never responded'
'I spoke to him on the phone and he said he'd call be back but never did'
'I've called him a few times but he hasn't picked up"
What was surprising, however, are the messages from people who said they had spoken to him, but had been refused a viewing. I again confronted him on this to which he responded 'No one has been refused viewings'. I sent him the screenshot of the conversation with the prospective tenant, which he again ignored.
Now comes perhaps the most infuriating part. A girl who had viewed the house messaged me saying that she would like to take the room. I told her that I was happy for her to take it, and that she should contact the landlord to arrange contracts and details. I also contacted the landlord letting her know that I was happy for her to take it. He did not respond. I told her to try him again the next day. Once again, no response. We have both been messaging him and calling all week, and neither of us have received any reply or acknowledgement.
The girl has now contacted me again voicing her concerns about moving into a place with such an unreliable landlord, and I am now unsure what to do if the room does not get taken.
My question is, do I have any legal standing that I could use to stop paying rent/take the landlord to court? I have been paying rent on a place that I have not been living in for three months, essentially wasting ~£1500, which as an unemployed student is really not an affordable loss. Has the landlord breached any contractual agreements that could potentially be used against him to possibly recover any of the money? For info, it is a joint tenancy for the whole house and I am the lead tenant.