What can I do if my tenant abandons the property?15-02-2023 | Property Occupants
When landlords ask ‘What can I do if my tenant abandons the property?’, we can hear the angst in the tone.
It’s been a rocky time for landlords in the last year with the rough economy disabling the tenant market as well as harsh weather conditions causing maintenance issues. Many landlords have found that their tenants can no longer afford their rent halfway through their tenancy as well as having to deal with extreme maintenance situations.
Being able to spot the signs that your tenants are edging towards leaving unexpectedly could help you avoid any nasty surprises. In addition, let’s look at your rights as a landlord and what action you can legally take if the worst comes to the worst.
What is tenant abandonment?
Tenant abandonment is when a tenant leaves the tenancy without notice to the landlord before the end date of the AST (assured shorthold tenancy agreement). The term abandonment also holds legal weight with regards to the tenant abandoning their right to possession of the property.
How long is it before the property is considered abandoned UK?
Unsurprisingly, the details around your assured shorthold tenancy agreement are essential. In most cases, landlords will include a clause which states that the tenant must let the landlord know if they plan on not staying at the property for longer than two weeks.
Having written permission (either via email or in a letter) would allow the tenant legally to still have access to the property.
Having no knowledge of a tenant leaving or not residing at the property for long periods of time would be considered as abandoning their legal right to possession of the rented property.
How can you prove the tenant has abandoned the property?
If you’re unsure if your tenant has completely surrendered their tenancy at the property the best course of action is to display an abandonment notice on the door should they return.
The best time to display this notice is two weeks after your last communication if you know they have not been at the property.
The notice must outline a plan for when the locks will be changed within a reasonable timeframe.
You can change the locks for security as long as you have given the tenant a written warning that you will be displaying a notice through your communication channels.
This abandonment notice can be found on the Gov UK site. The notice must include details of where to collect a spare key should the tenant return to the property.
Understanding the possession action notice for landlords in England and Wales
The Gov UK website offers extensive guidance for landlords to follow if you suspect your tenants have abandoned the property.
There are five strict steps that you will have to follow as a landlord to ensure you are adhering to the standard set by the government. Failure to complete each step could result in a counterclaim by the tenant for harassment or unfair eviction.
Reasons to get a possession order from the court
If your tenant has abandoned the property, you could still face allegations of unfair eviction if:
- The tenant’s belongings are still in the property
- You have not provided a clear communication stream explaining the situation with fair time scales
- The tenant still holds keys/ there hasn’t been a key exchange
- The tenant is still paying their rent
- Mail is still being sent to the property
With no key exchange, the safest route of practice would be to get a possession court order.
Steps you need to take to achieve a possession court order.
These are the steps you need to follow to protect your asset in the face of tenant abandonment.
- Serve notice under section 8 or section 21 Housing Act 1988.
- Make a possession claim. You will send this to your local court with your evidence.
- Before the hearing, you might need to prepare additional paperwork. The court will ask you for these.
- Attending the hearing. The judge will assess if they think a possession order should be granted.
- If you’re successful, you’ll apply for a warrant of possession.
To avoid any tenants who make a track record of abandonment, make sure you see our advice page on a thorough screening process. In the meantime, we hope you feel secure in your landlord’s insurance policy. If you’re unsure about it, why not give CIA Landlord Insurance a call today? We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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