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If your tenant(s) leaves the property they are renting before the tenancy has ended and without advising you the landlord or your agent, this is known as abandonment.
This is a massive problem for landlords for the following reasons:
The tenant(s) still has a legal tenancy
Can return and take up residence at any time regardless of not paying the rent
Taking back an abandoned property provides many difficulties for you as a landlord. This is because if the tenancy has not been surrendered or brought to an end, the missing tenant could return and therefore start legal proceedings against you for unlawful eviction.
Walk on the side of caution…
Should you believe your tenant(s) have abandoned your property during their tenancy you as their landlord need to be very cautious as:
- The tenant(s) are still legally entitled to return and take up residence
- You as their landlord have a responsibility to safeguard your tenant(s) belongings
- If you take back the property or re-let the property and your tenant(s) returns, you could be in very serious trouble as this would be seen as an unlawful eviction
Unlawful eviction is:
- A Civil Offence – For breaching the existing tenancy agreement and therefore means your tenant can seek compensation
- A Criminal Offence – You can be persecuted under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 for preventing the continuation of the tenancy
‘Abandonment is the voluntary surrender of a legal right – a tenancy’
A tenancy can only be ended by either you the landlord obtaining a court order for possession or by a surrender or notice from your tenant to end the tenancy.
If you believe that your tenant(s) has abandoned the property, we would suggest writing to the tenant(s) giving 5 working days’ notice that you would like to carry out a property inspection and that if it is not convenient to contact you.
If you do not hear from them, visit the property on the day and time you have said and ideally with a witness.
At the inspection you will be able to see if there are any signs of the following:
- Keys - This is a very important indication of your tenant(s) giving up possession. If all the keys have been posted through the letterbox or left in the property, then it is usually safe to assume they have abandoned the property.
- Possessions – If there are none of your tenancy possessions in the property, this is again a sign of them giving up possession, particularly if the keys are also there. If there are some possessions in the property, then you need to consider whether to wait until you can obtain a court order for possession.
- Rent Arrears – If the rent is still being paid, then this would be an indication that they have not abandoned the property. If however your tenant has stopped paying the rent, then this is another sign that will help indicate they have surrendered the property.
These points can help to indicate the property has been abandoned. You need to gather as much evidence as possible that could be used in court should your tenant(s) return to show that you took every step to safeguard the rights of the tenant(s).
Should you still believe that the property has been abandoned and wish to take possession, you should:
- Have your independent witness provide written confirmation to confirm your findings
- Leave a clear notice (Abandonment Notice) on the door informing the tenant(s) that the locks have been changed and should they require access they must contact you or your agent to obtain a replacement key – provide address and contact number
- You the landlord must under no circumstances deprive the tenant(s) of their rights to access
The Guaranteed Safe way
The guaranteed and safest way of regaining your property back is to get a court order for possession. This is strongly advised, particularly if there are tenant(s) possessions still in the property. Do not be tempted to change the locks or remove any of the possessions.
Which ever route you decide to go down, we strongly advise seeking legal advice. Be very careful with this situation and we would love to know your thoughts on this.
If you want any advice, contact us on 01243 788257 or email email@example.com