I was due to move into a flat and signed an assured shorthold tenancy contract. But, since signing the contract, my circumstances have changed dramatically and I now have to move to another town. I haven't moved into the flat or paid any money to the landlord. Am I now legally liable to pay him the deposit and rent?
Unfortunately, the assured shorthold tenancy agreement you've signed is legally binding for both you and your landlord. This is the case even though you have not moved in or paid anything towards the property.
This means that you will be liable to pay the rent until you can end your tenancy legally. You can only cancel the contract if your landlord agrees. If he agrees then try to have this confirmed in writing to protect yourself.
If you don't do this and then take up the tenancy, the landlord could pursue you through the small claims court for the rent that you would have been due to pay. The court will decide whether you should pay your landlord the money or not.
Your landlord will only be able to get this money from you if it hasn't been possible to let the property to another tenant during the period you were supposed to live there. It's worth knowing that if he lets out the property they can't charge you rent as well as the new tenant. If the landlord doesn't make any effort to let out the property, the court is likely to reduce the amount of money you will have to pay.
Another option may be to see if you can get someone else to move in and take the tenancy on. Again, this would have to be done with the landlord's permission.
If you need help because the landlord decides to take action against you, you might like to contact your local housing advice centre for assistance.
Question answered by Shelter