Tenancy abandonment: What are your landlord rights?

published on 12/01/2022  

Tenancy abandonment is when a tenant leaves a property before the end of tenancy, without letting the landlord know. Despite the tenant vacating the property, they are still the legal occupant so therefore still liable for rental payments. Here at Kings Lettings we’ve put together a guide exploring tenants rights while outlining the procedures you must take, should you find yourself in this position.

Has the tenant really abandoned the property?


The first course of action is to discover whether your tenant has actually abandoned the property or if it’s a case of temporary abandonment due to a hospital admission, family illness or legal custody.

Checking if the property is abandoned


If you, as a landlord, believe the property has been abandoned you should attempt to contact the tenant. You need written confirmation they’re returning possession of the property to you, as well as the keys. Once you have this, you can enter the property.

If after several attempts you still cannot reach the tenant you can investigate further if:

  • Rent has not been paid 
  • The property keys have been left 
  • The tenants possessions have been removed from the property

Aside from the potential loss of rental income, tenancy abandonment means a landlord cannot end the tenancy and re-let the property without a possession order.  If you do not have clear indications of abandonment, try checking in with neighbours, and tenants relatives - these witness statements can contribute to your case for a court possession order.

It’s vital when screening tenants that next of kin information is gathered.

When can a landlord enter a property without a possession order?


Even if a property is abandoned, the tenant is still in legal possession. You can only enter the property in the case of emergency, to safeguard the property if:

  • There’s a fire 
  • The property is in an insecure condition 
  • Gas or electric appliances are a risk to the safety of the property 
  • The property is flooded 
  • There’s structural damage that requires immediate attention 
  • There’s a reason to believe violence or crime is taking place

In this instance you need an independent witness to accompany you. A written account would need to be made.

Re-letting


If you decide to take steps towards re-letting the property before obtaining a possession order this could mean changing the locks and dealing with any possessions that the tenant has left behind. Doing so, however,  means you could be charged with illegal eviction and a breach of the tenancy contract. It’s always advisable to seek expert advice before doing anything that may put you at legal risk.

If you enter the property to change the locks you must:

  • Have an independent witness who can confirm the situation in writing.
  • Leave an abandonment notice on the floor with contact details for the tenant to regain entry.

The following details must be clearly displayed on the abandonment notice:

  • A statement of belief (with dates) of suspected abandonment 
  • Full name and contact details of landlord 
  • Full name of tenant and property address 
  • A request for information regarding the whereabouts of tenant 
  • A date in which the tenancy will be presumed surrendered failing contact to landlord 
  • A recommendation that the tenant seeks advice on their tenancy 
  • The names of any witnesses to the notice

Regaining possession of the property


In order to legally regain possession of a property abandoned by tenants, a landlord must seek a court possession order.

Landlords need to issue a section 21 or a section 8 notice before eviction proceedings can take place. Section 8 is relevant to abandonment as it applies when tenants are being evicted for legal reasons such as the breaking of a tenancy agreement.

If abandonment is not clear then a section 21 notice would be the most appropriate as landlords do not need to provide a reason for issuing such notice.

Abandoned possessions


When tenants leave a property they can leave possessions and goods behind. Landlords have a legal obligation to take care of tenants' possessions until they are returned to their owner, or are legitimately disposed of.

A landlord cannot legally seize or withhold goods in lieu of money owed by the tenant. The only way tenants’ goods can be legally used is through court bailiffs.

A well-put together tenancy agreement will usually define the procedures for dealing with abandoned goods which complies with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999.

If you’re a landlord wishing to dispose of abandoned goods you must take the following steps:

  • Issue a notice requiring collection and a notice of intention to sell goods (usually 28 days).
  • Seek evidence that goods have been abandoned (evidence in writing from the tenant if possible)
  • Proof that attempts were made to contact the tenant on several occasions

Should you require any advice related to tenancy abandonment please feel free to contact us here at Kings Lettings. We can also offer any tips related to renting or letting your property, whether you’re a first time landlord or rent out several properties, we’re always happy to share our expertise.

KINGS LETTINGS, 103 HIGH STREET, MAIDENHEAD, BERKSHIRE, SL6 1JX
T: +44 (0)16 2863 2188 | E: MAIDENHEAD@KINGS-LETTINGS.CO.UK Tags: Tenancy, Abandonment, Landlords, Property Management,