Abandonment notice after doing a bunk?

by Readers Question

8:51 AM, 22nd October 2019
About 2 months ago

Abandonment notice after doing a bunk?

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Abandonment notice after doing a bunk?

My ‘darling’ tenant has done a bunk and left yesterday. Neighbours saw him shifting stuff in the night.

I had a call from his ex-girlfriend this morning stating he had called her to say the same and also to tell her that her stuff was now on the street too.

I was in the process of eviction anyway due to rent arrears (surprise, surprise). But now what?

1. Do I still need to go through the full eviction process with the courts?
2. What’s an Abandonment Notice?

I am planning to visit the flat tomorrow as a result and had thought I could change the locks as he both still has a set of keys and so does the ex-girlfriend. Can I still do this?

He has a Deposit Bond with the Council so I have already filled the claim in for this and sent off in readiness as this will cover all the rent arrears.

I have never been in this situation before and wondered how to progress?

Many thanks.

Reluctant Landlord



Comments

Neil Patterson

8:58 AM, 22nd October 2019
About 2 months ago

I am sorry to hear about your absconding tenant and I am sure he has left but may be trying to catch you out to add insult to injury.

Please see an article written by Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law: I think my tenant has left, can I change the locks?
>> https://www.property118.com/i-think-my-tenant-has-left-can-i-change-the-locks/

I think my tenant has left, can I change the locks?

You need to be very, VERY careful about this. Once a property has been let to a tenant it is effectively his. He is entitled to live in it without interference from the landlord.

This is set out in a clause (rather quaintly called the ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment’) which is implied into all tenancy agreements, whether it is set out in the written terms and conditions or not. Mostly it is.

So the landlord has no right at all to go barging in, whether he thinks the tenant is there or not. After all a tenant does not HAVE to live in the property if he does not want to. Also, he could be on holiday, in hospital or in jail. None of which entitle the landlord to go in and repossess.

So the fact that the neighbours have not seen your tenant there for a while does not mean that you are legally entitled to just go in and change the locks. For example, if the tenant was merely on a long holiday and he came back to find that you had changed the locks he would be entitled to an injunction to get let back in again and financial compensation from you, particularly if you had re-let the property to someone else. Plus you would almost certainly be ordered to pay his legal costs as well. It could turn out to be a very expensive mistake.

If I also tell you that there are believed to be some tenants who deliberately pretend to have vacated, so that they can entice their landlords into repossessing to potentially sue them for damages, you will appreciate that there is a great need for caution in this situation.

However there are times when you can go in and change the locks. How can you tell when this is?

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.

Neil Patterson

9:00 AM, 22nd October 2019
About 2 months ago

I would also recommend professional assistance to avoid mistakes >> https://www.property118.com/evicting-tenants/

JO CHAPMAN

10:49 AM, 22nd October 2019
About 2 months ago

If you do not have the keys back, my advice would be to continue with a court possession order. I took short statements from the neighbours of my tenant stating that they had seen her moving her furniture out. The judge awarded me possession on the day it went to court. Expensive and drawn out procedure but you will stay on the right side of the law.

Mick Roberts

11:30 AM, 22nd October 2019
About 2 months ago

I've had loads of these of these over the years. And as time has gone on, we have to lean more towards caution & legal.

But more recently, as the above says, if u take a photo of keys below the door letterbox if they have been posted through, & if house looks pretty empty, photos again. All evidence.
And one wham dinger evidence, again only In my opinion, if on Housing Benefit, or UC paying rent, if you get letter from HB (Not sure if UC send letter-I'd imagine not knowing them DWP morons. As also not had UC tenant leave yet-Cause they can't get anywhere either now cause of Govt & Councils interference bashing us Landlords which only ends up making us Landlords not take UC any more which ends up worse for tenant-Enough ranting now Mick!) saying HB has stopped, quite often, these HB letters say Tenant has moved out, Ooh baby if I get HB Council letter saying tenant has moved out, I need no more evidence.

Mike

11:46 AM, 22nd October 2019
About 2 months ago

I had a tenant who went away to his home abroad, he said he would be gone for 4 to 5 weeks and when he returns, he will sort out any outstanding rent due by then.
5 weeks went, 8 weeks went and no sign of his return, his things were still there, so ina way it seemed that he would return but has incurred some delay for some reason.

But do you not think any responsible tenant would contact his landlord and explain any circumstances and that he would return but it could be a few weeks to months more.

That is as long as he is also arranging to pay landlord some sort of rent being transferred into a landlords bank account, but 3 months gone and not a word from him, despite many text messages warning that unless he contacts and explains his situation, it will be assumed that he has abandoned or has no intention of coming back, what about those landlords who depend on rental income to repay mortgage, they risk repossession by a lender if a landlord is not getting paid rent.

So as he did not reply to any of my text messages, it was then clear that tenant is irresponsible and thoughtless fool, not realising how he would lose that home.

I then served on him in his absence, a 2 weeks Section 8 rent arrears Notice in the presence of a witness, also photographic evidence, after the expiry of the notice applied to county court for a possession order for failing to pay rent and abandoning the premises, with no contact or any information received from him, the court set a hearing date, i texted him the court hearing date just in case, so that he cannot claim he did not receive any letters etc, texting or emailing is a solid evidence.
At the hearing he did not turn up, I was not expecting he would, the Judge awarded me a forthwith possession, though you need to take all evidence of rent arrears statement etc.

All notices and time should be adhered to, take proper legal procedure, you should get a possession order,

Then a month later, the tenant returned, asking for keys as I had changed door locks, and put in a new tenant, I showed him the possession order and he walked away.

His belongings were stored in a safe place for him to collect giving him 2 weeks to collect or they will be disposed off or I will start charging him storage fees, also the court gave me the authority to charge him any back rent, but you cannot squeeze blood out of stones, as it would be a complete waste of more time and costs.

WP

11:56 AM, 24th October 2019
About 2 months ago

Conclusion - I posted an an abandonment notice on the door, photo of it to the council with photos of the state of the place to show he has left with names of tenants above who saw him do a moonlit flit. Council agreed he has left/tenancy surrender by default and Bond now in process of being paid to me in full. Next stage is to contact Court to tell them the same, using Council info as evidence. Locks have been changed

Mike

12:09 PM, 24th October 2019
About 2 months ago

Glad you got it done more or less the right way, if he comes back slap that court order on his face.

23:26 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Obfuscated Data

WP

8:07 AM, 21st November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Disabled Tenant at 20/11/2019 - 23:26
Yes all went well thanks - sorry forgot to update thread! Council took abandonment notice as read, and I never heard from tenant so Council issued deposit bond back to me in totality (due to rent arrears). Locks changed and hopefully a new tenant soon.


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