This is a great question - I can confirm unequivocally that cooling off periods do NOT apply to rental property contracts.
Most people will be familiar with the concept of a cooling off period – you’ve probably been made aware of it when signing a new mobile phone contract or something similar.
The law says that most consumer credit contracts must offer a cooling off period, usually of 14 calendar days – in other words, you can change your mind and back out of the agreement up to 14 days after signing a contract.
Under previous distance selling regulations, if a tenant had never met their landlord (which could sometimes be the case when letting a property through an agent) they could avail of a cooling off period.
However, distance selling regulations were amended to exempt rental contracts for residential accommodation. This legislation was then replaced with The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. Rental contracts are clearly, specifically exempted from the new law – which you can see here.
Under current legislation, cooling off periods apply differently to contracts signed on-premises and off-premises.
This is part of the reason why most agents will tend to insist upon tenants coming into the office to talk through and sign all contracts and legal documents – although rental agreements are definitely not subject to cooling off periods, it just errs on the side of caution.
The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 gives consumers the right to a cooling off period after signing a contract. Part 6 (1) (d) states "These Regulations do not apply to a contract, to the extent that it is— ...... (d) for rental of accommodation for residential purposes"
So that’s your legal position – however, you might want to consider letting this tenant out of the contract early anyway. An unhappy tenant might be hard work; it would be much preferable for both parties if you have a tenant who actually wants to be there.
Perhaps you could explain the legal facts as detailed above, and then offer a compromise - they can leave as soon as you find a new tenant ready to move in. They’ll only have to pay you for the time they live there. This would avoid voids for you, and the tenant isn’t tied to a home they don’t want – potentially a win-win.
Good luck – give me a call at the office if I can help with this in any way.
If you have any questions about letting your property out to rent, email Barry at email@example.com with ‘Ask Barry’ in the subject line.