Ancient and little known law helps Landlords charge double rent


Ref. Section 18, Distress for Rent Act 1737

Many landlords have experienced the problems caused by tenants when they deliver notice to leave a property, and then change their minds and try to stay, even after a replacement tenant has been found. Although the landlord has the legal right to regain possession, he will have to obtain a court order first, which can be a lengthy and costly process.

The Distress for Rents Act 1737, which has not yet been quashed or disapplied, provides an alternative course of action for aggrieved landlords. Section 18 of the Act reads:

“And whereas great inconveniences have happened and may happen to landlords whose tenants have power to determine their leases, by giving notice to quit the premisses by them holden, and yet refusing to deliver up the possession when the landlord hath agreed with another tenant for the same: from and after the said twenty fourth day of June one thousand seven hundred and thirty eight, in case any tenant or tenants shall give notice of his, her, or their intention to quit the premisses by him, her, or them holden, at a time mentioned in such notice, and shall not accordingly deliver up the possession thereof at the time in such notice contained, that then the said tenant or tenants, his, her, or their executors or administrators, shall from thenceforward pay to the landlord or landlords, lessor or lessors, double the rent or sum which he, she, or they should otherwise have paid, to be levied, sued for, and recovered at the same times and in the same manner as the single rent or sum, before the giving such notice, could be levied, sued for, or recovered; and such double rent or sum shall continue to be paid during all the time such tenant or tenants shall continue in possession as aforesaid.”

 Thus if a tenant gives notice to their landlord that they wish to leave the premises, but then changes their mind and attempts to remain, the Landlord is within his rights to charge double rent for every day the tenant is in occupation beyond the termination of the agreement. This could be deducted from the deposit already held.

For this course of action to be valid, the tenant must have served an official notice to quit, which was accepted by the landlord. It cannot be used if the tenant simply fails to return the keys or if the tenant stays on after the end of the fixed term (which constitutes a legal continuation).

It is our understanding that few judges know of this law, but it could form an additional and valuable weapon in the armoury of the landlord and his legal representatives when it comes to dealing with troublesome tenants.


To read this month’s article on the matters landlords should be aware of when considering letting a property, click here.

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