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In email discussions, letting agency stated rent amount A. They have provided me a contract to sign at a rent amount B ~ 8% lower than amount A. As this is an error in my favour, I would prefer to pay rate B. Will this be possible? Or does the amount A agreed to in previous emails before I saw the contract take precedence?

Additional details: This is a UK Assured Shorthold Tenancy, 12 month fixed term contract. I have paid the first month's rent at amount A. This must be done before the contract is signed, as is fairly standard practice in UK letting. I plan to pay the remaining 11 months at rate B.

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    "I have paid the first month's rent at amount A. This must be done before the contract is signed, as is fairly standard practice in UK letting" - I've rented numerous properties in the UK and have never been asked to pay the first month's rent before signing the contract, nor would I do so if asked. – Lag Aug 11 '20 at 17:32
  • Are you planning on moving out at the end of the 12 months? Doing this means that'll almost certainly happen. – Studoku Aug 11 '20 at 20:04
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    Agreeing with @Lag- I've never paid any first month or deposit without signing anything. – Studoku Aug 11 '20 at 20:21
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It depends

In general, a written contract is deemed to reflect the agreement that the parties reached and the parol evidence rule prevents the introduction of extrinsic evidence (like your previous emails or, indeed, this question) that contradicts the plain meaning of the contract.

The rationale for this rule is that parties adopt and abandon many positions while negotiating a contract but that when an agreement is reached and reduced to writing then what they write is what the agreed. While this is technically a rebuttable presumption, in commercial agreements between businesses (which are presumed to know what they are doing), it is virtually an inviolate rule.

The agency is a business, they wrote the agreement. Absent some overwhelming evidence, what they wrote is what the agreed.

Now, they do have some decent evidence:

  • your payment of the higher amount (which may not be conclusive - you may have paid that amount to secure the property while negotiations were ongoing),
  • this question. The fact that you admit that this is not what you agreed is pretty damning to your position.
  • your testimony. When they put you on the witness stand and ask you if this was the rent you agreed to you will have to say "no". Unless you perjure yourself - that's illegal and unethical but you do you.

Now, if you were to sign the agreement and send it back with a note saying "Thank you for the lower rent. It was unexpected but much appreciated. Should I withhold the overpayment of the first month from the second month or will you refund it?" it's quite likely that you could make the lower rent stick. They would be in no position to claim that you had known they had made a mistake (you genuinely thought they were being generous) and that you took advantage of it.

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Probably not, and trying to do so is a very bad idea.

This is a unilateral mistake- one party is mistaken, the other knows or should know. This is under UK law, enough to void a contract. From what you've described, it is trivial to prove this. In this case- you have email correspondence and your first payment that proves it.

If (n.b when) the landlord finds out, one of two things will happen:

  • You will be expected to pay the original amount and amend the contract. It'd be hard to force, but the alternative would be
  • The contract is voided. You now have no right to live there.

While it's tempting to pull one over on your greedy landlord, the best move here is to inform them of the mistake. This has the added advantage of making your landlord like you which is never a bad thing.

  • Sorry this wasn't what you wanted to hear. Though you do realise that downvoting me doesn't change things, right? – Studoku Aug 12 '20 at 1:23
  • As a new user with 1 rep, I do not have the power to downvote you, nor would I. Thank you for your contribution – Marcos Aug 12 '20 at 10:46

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