Abandoned Property and keys left?

by Readers Question

10:51 AM, 17th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Abandoned Property and keys left?

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Abandoned Property and keys left?

A little while ago I asked property118 for advice on evicting a tenant, we contacted Landlord Action and we have served a Sec 21 and now two Sec 8’s (they forgot to deduct the deposit which the tenant told us to use).abandonment

Two weeks ago I had a call from the tenant to say he had left the property to ‘take care of some business in London’ but would come back to the flat to clear the remaining personal items. This he told me would be done by last weekend ( 12/13th March). He also advised me that he was happy for me to re-advertise and that I could enter the flat to check things were OK.

This my husband and I did on Saturday 5th March with the estate agent. Most of the furniture had gone and there were several black sacks which I didn’t look in, probably some clothes of his. The flat was in good condition.

Since then, he has not been back to the flat and we think he cannot be bothered now that he is back in London. He has not replied to two texts I have sent asking him if he’s coming back to clear his stuff. There are lots of letters in his post box, mainly official looking ones, which, as he owes money all over, must be debt collection.

The estate agent that will be marketing the flat again has suggested we place an ‘abandonment’ notice on the door.

I am not really happy about this but it doesn’t look as if the tenant is coming back, he left some keys with his nephew (our friend) but probably has a set of his own with him.

How long do we leave this empty flat and how much time do we give him if he’s not been in touch with us? Would it be best to go to court when the new section 8 expires in 2 weeks?

Thanks and any advice much appreciated.

Sally



Comments

Neil Patterson

10:59 AM, 17th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Sally,
I have a very good article written by Tessa Shepperson which will help >> http://www.property118.com/i-think-my-tenant-has-left-can-i-change-the-locks/5736/

part of the article quoted below:

The doctrine of implied surrender

The legal justification for repossessing a property in the absence of the tenant is that you are accepting what we lawyers call an ‘implied surrender’. This is when the conduct of the tenant is inconsistent with an intention to continue with the tenancy. You can then accept this implied surrender offer by re-entering the property and changing the locks, and this then ends the tenancy.

The best and clearest example if this is if the tenant stops paying rent, moves out all his possessions, and leaves the keys behind. Giving up the keys is considered to be a symbol of giving up possession. So if you have a situation where they have been left behind you are generally safe to repossess – so long as the tenant has actually moved out, and has not just left them behind by mistake while popping out to the shops!

However, if the keys have not been left behind, particularly if some of the tenant’s possessions are still there, you should back out of the property (assuming you have entered with your keys and an independent witness, to check the situation) and obtain a court order for possession.

Obtaining a court order for possession is the ONLY 100% safe way to repossess a property with no risk of any claim for compensation for unlawful eviction. Anything else is a risk. You may consider that it is a risk worth taking, particularly if the tenant is in serious arrears of rent. However it IS a risk and any solicitor you consult will advise you to go to court.

What if you have no keys or way of checking? For example if the flat is on the sixth floor and you cannot peer through the windows? Then your only option is the court order for possession.

The abandonment notice myth

“But” you are probably saying, “Why don’t you just put an abandonment notice up on the door?” “Because” my answer would be “they are nonsense”.

When I first started working in property law, I had never heard of an abandonment notice. They are in none of the legal text books. They are a myth perpetrated by landlords and agents who don’t want to go to court. But they do not, and cannot have any legal efficacy.

Here’s why:

If the tenant has given up and gone, if there is a genuine situation of implied surrender, you do not need to put any notice on the door. You can just go in and change the locks, now, entirely legally.
If, on the other hand, it is not an implied surrender situation, if the tenant is say, merely staying longer than expected with her Great Aunt Mary (perhaps GA Mary has fallen sick, and she is staying to nurse her), then you have no right to go in and change the locks. Any attempt by you to do so will certainly be unlawful eviction which is both a criminal offence and (as we have seen above) a civil wrong entitling the tenant to bring a claim for compensation.

The problem is working out which of these situations apply. Things are not always clear cut.

Kelly Joanna

13:35 PM, 17th March 2016
About 3 years ago

the only legal way to get possession is with a possession order. Apply to the courts for this and let your tenant know you are intending to do so, and unless he offers you some clarity he will be liable for court costs and reasonable legal fee's.

Sally Tattersall

18:31 PM, 17th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Thanks for replies - it's not very clear cut but the fact is he hasn't paid his rent since 1 November 2015 and now, after telling me he would be out by 12/13th March, he's not there. The second sec 8 expires next week and the sec 21 on 20th April.

He handed keys to his nephew who has given them to us.

I think he's gone for good.

If I go to court to get a possession order, would I be ok doing it on my own? If the tenant was not in court and I have all the proof needed such as dates, copies of the letters sent to him etc etc would they grant the order?

Thanks

Kelly Joanna

9:47 AM, 18th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Ahhh! I didn't realize keys had been surrendered. In which case, possession is already yours. Proceed as you will, but double check there are no personal items in the bin bags before disposing.

Sally Tattersall

19:24 PM, 18th March 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Kelly Joanna" at "18/03/2016 - 09:47":

Hello Kelly, I think there are clothes in the bin bags - I was planning on keeping them in case he contacts me.

Michael Holmes

19:22 PM, 27th November 2018
About 3 weeks ago

I have a somewhat similar case, the difference being, I have no means of contacting the tenant. She has just disappeared from her room in an HMO which I run, left a terrapin to starve to death and left all her belongings. She has made no attempt to contact me and her mother is also in the dark about her whereabouts. She does have a pretty nasty drug habit, which may explain a lot, but she hasn't paid her rent for 2 months.

I have tried contacting SS, but so far have not had any feedback. Any suggestions as to how to proceed? Needless to say her room looks as of it has been turned over by a professional thief.

Rob Crawford

9:15 AM, 28th November 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Michael Holmes at 27/11/2018 - 19:22
So, I assume you have served section 21 ? If not that's the first thing to do. Then as Neil suggests above in 2016, the only 100% safe way is to seek court possession. If you just assume abandonment and the tenant returns you face a legal nightmare, especially if you have re let!

Michael Holmes

10:55 AM, 28th November 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 28/11/2018 - 09:15Who do I serve it to if she can’t be found?

Sally Tattersall

11:04 AM, 28th November 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Michael Holmes at 27/11/2018 - 19:22
Hi

Just to let you know the outcome of the situation above - 2 1/2 years ago!!

We had served the appropriate notices, the tenant had left the keys in the post box so we took his bin liners of clothes, kept them in our garage, re let the flat to a company who still have it now.

We got rid of the bin liners after 4 months after texting him to say where they were. Of course we had no reply from him and I’m pleased we used common sense and just got on with it with it.

If you can find a set of keys in the property, I would take it to mean the tenant has left and given the property back to you.

Michael Holmes

13:57 PM, 28th November 2018
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Sally Tattersall at 28/11/2018 - 11:04
Hello Kelly,

Thank you for your update. Not much help to me, I can't get hold of the tenant at all, so wondering who I serve the notice to. the tenant is probably living with her boyfriend somewhere, but not having an address or phone no. does not help. Any ideas?

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