Dealing With Tenant AbandonmentWritten By PropertyLoop March 02, 2021
What Is Tenant Abandonment?
Tenant Abandonment occurs when the occupants of a rental property decide to vacate the premises before the fixed term of the tenancy has come to an end, and without giving the landlord any notice of their intent to leave. This is not only problematic for the owner as the first warning they have of their tenant’s abandonment is the missing rent payment, but even this doesn’t provide any definitive knowledge that their property is currently vacant. Alongside having to now navigate a void period, meaning landlords must settle any buy to let interest payments, letting agent fees, repair costs and the other expenses that come with being a landlord, all without any rent being paid; landlords must also determine in the tenant’s have actually abandoned the property as if the owner takes action to reclaim possession, this could be seen as illegal eviction.
Why Does Tenant Abandonment Happen?
As can be expected there is a number of reasons as to why the occupants of a rental property would suddenly vacate their home without giving the landlord any notice. This could be anything from unexpected circumstances impacting their ability to pay rent, receiving treatment in a hospital or caring for family, but regardless of the reasoning the effect on the owner of the rental property is the same; a loss of rental income and an apprehensive search for a new occupant.
What Is an Abandonment Notice?
Providing that the landlord believes the rental property may have been abandoned by its occupants, prior to the tenancy agreement coming to an end then an abandonment notice will need to be issued. This simply means the landlord will need to detail that they suspect the rental has been abandoned, advising the tenants that the locks have been changed and what they are able to do should they need access to the property.
The notice should not only explain for how long the property may have been empty, but the contact details of the landlord, an urge for the tenants to contact the landlord or letting agent, alongside a date by which the tenancy will be assumed surrendered by the occupants, and where they can turn for legal consultation.
What Is the Effect of Notice of Abandonment?
Essentially the notice of abandonment protects the landlord in the event that they are accused of illegal eviction when changing the locks to a property they suspect to be abandoned. This is because the notice offers the tenants ample time, opportunity and means to contact the owner of the rental property and resolve the issue.
Can I Change the Locks if a Tenant Has Left?
It is essential for rental property owners to note that they are prohibited from changing the locks to their rental property in an effort to keep their tenants out if they have fallen into rent arrears, caused excessive damage, or been found in breach of the tenancy agreement. Not only does changing the locks to the rental property put the landlord at risk of claims of illegal eviction by preventing the occupants of the property from retaking up residents during a period where they maintain both possession and the right to quiet enjoyment.
With this being said it does not mean that landlords are unable to reclaim possession of their rental property if all signs point towards tenant abandonment. In such circumstance the conduct of the occupants is referred to as implied surrender, meaning the landlord can accept this implication, allowing them to not only reclaim possession of the property but also change the locks. Perhaps the best example of this would be if a tenant were to stop paying the expected amount of rent and returns the keys to the property to the landlord, alongside clearing their possessions, all without providing the landlord with any notice.
However, most instances of tenant abandonment are not this clear cut, nor easy to decipher, meaning that the only way a landlord can be certain that they will not be faced with claims of illegal eviction is to obtain a court order for possession of the property.
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