Image of a model house.

Picture this; your tenants have left your property, the neighbours haven’t seen them and they’ve left a heap of financial arrears. Let’s look at how long a tenant can leave a property empty before it is classed as abandoned. 

Shockingly, even though you’ve got your tenants to sign a tight Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement, your tenants have had other ideas. With tenants leaving the property due to personal reasons, landlords need to know what are the correct steps to follow. 

How long can a tenant leave a property empty?

Make it clear in your AST agreement that prolonged periods of time away from the property are not suitable unless pre-agreed with you, the landlord.

Usually, the tenant would be required to give notice to the landlord if they are leaving the property for two weeks. Of course, you’re able to agree upon longer than this if you have a good relationship with your tenants however, prolonged periods of vacancy properties can lead to issues like these: 

  • Burglary and robbery 
  • Natural disaster damage 
  • Unforeseen electrical or gas issues
  • Vandalism 
  • Squatters
  • Reduced insurance cover

Squatter can prove a huge issue down the line as squatters rights say that if they are considered ‘long term’ squatters by the local council, they have the right to claim the property over the landlord. Unsurprisingly, a squatter claiming your property would mean you’ve totally taken your eye off the ball. 

In addition to squatters, you may have the council taking control of your property through the Housing Act 2004.

What is the Housing Act 2004 empty homes?

The Housing Act 2004 made provision for local authorities to take over management of certain residential premises that had been empty for at least six months by seeking an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO).

How many days can tenants leave their belongings?

Tricky as it may seem to finalise the collection of a tenant’s belongings, you’ll still have to play fairly and to the law. 

21 days is the customary amount of time you should give your tenant to collect their belongings. Make sure you have a clear line of communicative evidence. You should find a forwarding address if they do not respond to this request. Outside of the 21 days, you are able to dispose of their belongings.

leaving with storage boxes

What do I do if a tenant abandons my property?

Stressful and difficult times ensue when a tenant unexpectedly leaves your property. Here are the steps you can take to either rectify this situation or help yourself find some new tenants.

Try to contact the tenant

The first thing you should do is try to contact the tenant to see if they can explain why they left. You can try calling them, emailing them, or sending them a letter. If you can’t get in touch with them, you can try contacting their family or friends.

Check the property for damage

Once you’ve made sure that the tenant is not coming back, you should check the property for any damage. If there is any damage, you should take pictures of it and document it. You may also want to hire a professional to assess the damage and get in touch with your insurer. 

If you’d like to find a suitable policy for your property, get in touch with us today. 

What is a notice of abandonment at the rental property? 

Change the locks

But before you do, you must display the Notice of Abandonment in a clear and obvious place in case the tenants return. The Notice of Abandonment will state that the locks have been changed and who to contact if they need to access the property. 

Once you’ve checked the property for damage, you should change the locks. This will help to prevent anyone from breaking into the property.

Start the eviction process 

If the tenant has left without paying rent, you should start the eviction process. To see how to legally evict your tenant follow this helpful advice from us at CIA. This will allow you to get the tenant out of the property and get back on the market.

Re-let the property

Once the tenant has been evicted, you can start the process of re-letting the property. This may take some time, but it’s important to get the property back on the market as soon as possible.

Embarking on any assured shorthold agreements has its risks. If you’re in the unfortunate situation of having a property abandoned, you might want to look at your landlord insurance policy. Get in contact with CIA Landlords today to see how we can find the right policy for you and your property. 

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