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"My landlord would not allow me to sublet at a rent below the market level. I agreed a market rent, but the landlord is now concerned about the financial viability of the subtenant. Can he keep moving the goal posts?"

No. Assuming your lease allows you to sublet and you have satisfied any conditions for making your application for consent then your landlord is bound by his first response.

Section 1(3) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1988 provides that once written application for consent has been made, your landlord must give approval unless it is reasonable not to do so. If he wishes to withhold consent he must provide written reasons which are then binding.

Genuine concerns about the financial viability of a proposed subtenant to meet its obligations under a lease are generally considered to be a valid reason for a landlord to withhold consent. If your landlord did not include his concerns about the financial viability of your proposed tenant as a reason for his refusal initially, he is not entitled to rely on them now.

Given that it appears you have answered your landlord’s concern about the level of rent under the sublease, it seems that he is now unreasonably withholding consent to the subletting, in breach of his statutory duty. You could proceed with the subletting anyway but this runs the risk that your landlord will allege that in doing so you have breached the terms of your lease and he may seek to recover damages, obtain an injunction or even forfeit your lease.

A safer alternative is for you to seek from the court a declaration that consent has been unreasonably withheld. You can also make a claim for damages to compensate you for any loss that has resulted from the unreasonable withholding of consent, which may be worth considering if, for example, you lose your prospective subtenant.

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