What legal issues should I be aware of when I assign my lease?

Duration of a lease

Often when an individual signs a tenancy agreement to lease a particular property in return for the payment of rent there will be a minimum duration of the lease. For many properties in England and Wales the minimum term of a lease will be 6 months and in some cases it will be 12 months.

When a tenant signs up to this agreement they may not be aware of certain unforeseen factors which may require them to move out before the end of the lease. If this is the case and they can no longer afford to live in the property they have the option of assigning the lease.

Assignment of a lease

What is meant by assignment of a lease?

An assignment of a lease is the process of passing on or selling a leasehold interest.

Can a landlord object to the assignment of a lease?

If the lease which the original tenant signed provides for and allows assignment, the landlord should not unreasonably object or delay. If a landlord does unreasonably object or delay they will risk having to pay compensation to the tenant.

The Right to assign a lease

One of the main principles of a leasehold which gives an interest in land (i.e. a lease which enables the tenant to live in a property under the condition of rent payment) is the fact that the leasehold interest can be owned and sold or passed on to another leaseholder.

This means that under most agreements for an individual tenant to lease a property from a landlord it is perfectly legal for the tenant to assign the lease to another individual. The original tenant will the vacate the premises with the leasehold agreement being taken over by the individual whom it was assigned to.

Does the Landlord have to give permission for this to be the case?

The right to assign the lease is generally subject to permission of the landlord being granted. However, this permission cannot be unreasonably withheld.

Is there any criterion which must be established before a lease can be assigned?

Normally it will be provided for in the lease that if an assignment is going to take place the individual who it is assigned to must meet certain criteria and be qualified as a reliable tenant by the landlord.

What sort of criteria must be adhered to?

In most cases this would require similar checks to which the original tenant was subject to when taking on the tenancy in the first place. Usually this will have been financial checks and references.

Are there any duties placed on the landlord when an assignment is to take place?

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1988 provides for the following duties placed on the landlord when an assignment is to take place:

  • To give consent to an assignment, except where it is reasonable not to do so
  • To give consent without undue delay
  • If the landlord also requires the consent of a superior landlord, to take reasonable steps to secure consent without undue delay

When will it be deemed reasonable for a landlord to withhold consent?

If the landlord withholds consent it may be deemed reasonable even where the assignment of the lease was not excluded in the original agreement.

The following are reasons as to why the landlord may justifiably refuse to assign a lease:

  • Insufficient information supplied on or by the proposed tenant – if this is the case the landlord would be unable to make a judgment on the proposed new tenant
  • Character and financial standing of the assignee
  • Following the landlord’s judgment he has decided that the future viability of the building as a whole could be jeopardised

When will it be deemed unreasonable for a landlord to withhold his consent?

It is generally held to be unreasonable for a landlord to withhold consent on matters outside the lease and the landlord and tenant relationship of if one of the following issues has occurred:

  • The landlord argues that the tenant will affect the letting of other properties in the vicinity
  • The landlord argues that the tenant will affect the letting of other parts of the building of which the said letting forms a part only
  • The landlord wants repossession
  • The landlord wishes to withhold consent on grounds of race, sex or disability

What happens if the landlord and tenant cannot come to an agreement over the assignment of a lease?

In some scenarios a tenant will feel that he can justify a claim for assignment of the lease and the landlord is unreasonably withholding consent. If this situation occurs the tenant has the option with simply carrying on the transaction for the assignment of the lease.

Does the tenant run any risks if they carry on in this manner?

If the tenant simply carries on with the assignment as they believe consent on the part of the landlord to be unreasonably withheld they do run the risk of forfeiture of the lease.

Is there any other option available to the tenant?

Where the tenant feels that consent is being unreasonably withheld they have the option of applying to the court for a judgement. However, this will bring a subsequent delay to proceedings.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.

By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.

If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.