Have you abandoned your property?
If a tenancy agreement has not been legally ended or surrendered but the tenant has left the property during the tenancy then this is known as abandonment.
Some tenants sometimes choose to leave a property for long periods of time. If they are planning to be away from the property for more than two weeks then they are required to inform the landlord.
This is often stated in the tenancy agreement so the tenant would be breaking the terms of the tenancy, if they failed to inform the landlord they were going to be away from the property.
A landlord must be sure that the tenant has surrendered the tenancy by abandonment, before re-letting the property or changing the locks. The best way to be sure of this is by contacting the tenant and ensuring they confirm they are abandoning the tenancy by a written notice to quit. Retuning the keys is a clear indication from the tenant that they are agreeing to surrender the tenancy. If a tenant has not ended the agreement, the landlord is responsible to ensure their belongings are looked after if they have been left in the property.
If the landlord is unsure as to whether the tenant is living in the property or not, it is best to end the tenancy by applying for a possession order, rather than run the risk of having unlawful eviction proceedings put forward. A tenant may return and press charges of illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If the landlord has re-let or repossessed the property they also run the risk of being charged with breaching the terms of the tenancy agreement. The safest option, for landlords when abandonment seems to have occurred is to get a possession order from the courts, especially if a tenant has left their belongings or furniture in the property.
A landlord will make the necessary checks to confirm that the tenant has abandoned the tenancy. It could be that a tenant is on a long holiday, is in hospital or undergoing a short prison sentence.
Your landlord will make enquires by:
- speaking to the neighbours,
- checking to see if the keys have been returned,
- finding out if the rent is still being paid,
- contacting a relative for information on the tenant`s whereabouts,
- finding out if belongings or furniture have been removed from the property.
If after trying to gather information on the tenants whereabouts and whether or not abandonment has occurred, it appears the property has been abandoned then the landlord is only able to enter the property under certain circumstances.
If the landlord feels that the property is in an insecure condition, or that electrical or gas appliances could cause damage or danger to the property then they may have a case for entering the property with an independent witness who can confirm the condition of the property and the situation in writing. The landlord can place an abandonment notice on the door of the property if the locks have been changed (for security reasons) advising the tenant where they can contact the landlord to gain a new key to the property.