Piggybank News

July 21, 2011

When your tenant does a runner….

Filed under: Property — nspresources @ 8:45 am
Tags: , , , ,

What do you do if you suspect that a tenant has moved out of your property without informing you?  What are your rights? What are his?

The first thing to do, if all other attempts to contact the tenant have failed, is to issue an inspection notice for the property.  As the landlord you do have the right to inspect a property but you must give at least 24 hours notice.  When you inspect it may become clear whether or not the tenant has moved out but it is common for tenants to leave at least a certain amount of their belongings behind when they “do a runner”.  In this case, unless there is a clear indication (such as leaving the keys and/or a note of surrender) of abandonment, the legal presumption is always that the tenant is still resident.  There are severe penalties attached to the landlord terminating a tenancy illegally so simply changing the locks and re-letting is not an option.

A 1997 court case resulted in the landlady receiving a £20,000 plus fine for re-letting her flat even though her abandoning tenant was in prison, committed for life. He pursued the case from prison and won.

If after inspecting the property you still think that the tenant has abandoned it then you should issue a section 8 eviction notice quoting Ground 12 “Any obligation of the tenancy (other than one related to the payment of rent) has been broken or not performed.”  Abandonment is a breach of most standard AST’s, as is failure to give notice.  You can also quote other relevant grounds depending on the situation eg rent arrears, depredations etc. Ground 12 has a 14 day notice period and if the tenant has not responded at this point it is reasonable to consider the tenancy terminated.

You should also issue a notice of abandonment which can be attached to the door and which should state your contact details clearly for the tenant to get in touch if they have not in fact abandoned the property.  Both the notice of abandonment and the section 8 should also be sent to whatever emergency contact addresses you hold for the tenant.  If the tenant is claiming benefits then it is also sensible to inform the local housing office of your actions so that there is an official record.

(Piggy says  “If there is room for doubt in any of this then the only 100% way to terminate a tenancy is to get a court order of possession. Unfortunately this is both time-consuming and costly.”)

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