Deed of Surrender – Landlord and Tenant Q&A

by Readers Question

13:41 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Deed of Surrender – Landlord and Tenant Q&A

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Deed of Surrender – Landlord and Tenant Q&A

Dear Readers,

If a tenant signs a tenancy surrender form (Deed of Surrender), but subsequently changes their mind and refuses to move out or return the keys, is the landlord legally allowed to change the locks and deny the tenant access? Would this then be in breach of the Protection from Eviction Act?

Putting it slightly differently:
If the tenant has surrendered the tenancy, by signing a tenancy surrender form, but remains in occupation, are they then an illegal squatter?

Does a landlord need a court order to evict them, or is there a different lawful way of getting them out?

Many Thanks

RobertGood Question

Comments

Steve Masters

14:49 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

There has to be an end point, not just to the tenancy but to possession of the property. Otherwise what is the difference between :-
a) not moving out after signing surrender document,
b) moving out but returning that night with a spare key and crashing because his new pad was not ready yet,
c) letting themselves back in 6 months later and sleeping in the new tenants bed!!!

Steve From Leicester

15:01 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

I'm a Letting Agent not a lawyer but here's my thoughts based on knowledge of the law I've acquired through running my business and on practical experience.

If the tenant actually vacated and handed the keys back (and you can demonstrate this) then you've got possession. In turn, if he re-enters it'll be dealt with as trespass / squatting / breaking & entering depending on exactly what he did and how he did it.

If you can't prove that the tenant did actually vacate the property and hand the keys back you'll need a court order to get him out in exactly the same way that you'd need a court order to get him out if he refused to go after a tenancy had ended in the normal way.

The one that's debatable is "Do you need to serve notice first in these circumstances?".

I'd say that unless someone can produce some cast iron case law it would be down to the whim of the judge on the day as to whether he agreed to grant possession solely on the basis of the deed of surrender. For that reason, best play it safe, serve notice and seek a court order once its expired.

Steve Masters

15:13 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve From Leicester" at "20/02/2014 - 15:01":

I like your answer, I hope it's true.

I thought the whole point of a Surrender Document signed by both T & LL and witnessed is to provide the proof that possession has been handed back.

Mark Alexander

15:16 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve Masters" at "20/02/2014 - 15:13":

Why would you like that answer Steve, are you a tenant who has signed a Deed of Surrender but doesn't want to move out?

The answer I was hoping for it that the Police would come and arrest the tenant for squatting - some hope!
.

Steve Masters

15:21 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "20/02/2014 - 15:16":

I liked "...if he re-enters it’ll be dealt with as trespass / squatting / breaking & entering depending on exactly what he did..."

Steve From Leicester

15:23 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve Masters" at "20/02/2014 - 15:13":

A correctly signed and witnessed Deed of Surrender is proof that they've mutually agreed to end the tenancy.

It's not "possession" unless it was signed and witnessed at (or after) the point where the tenant bundled the last of his possessions into the removal van and shut the front door behind him.

Mark Alexander

15:25 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve Masters" at "20/02/2014 - 15:21":

Ahhhh, I see now! 🙂

I thought you liked the bit about serving notice - you had me worried there for a few minutes LOL
.

Steve Masters

15:34 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve From Leicester" at "20/02/2014 - 15:23":

So Steve, in my case if I get it signed and witnessed AFTER they have left I should be OK, phew!

Sorry, I didn't mean to high jack this conversation. Don't forget Roberts original post where the case is it was signed BEFORE they moved out.

Freda Blogs

16:02 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

I wonder whether, in such a case, the doctrine of estoppel might apply?

This is a legal principle “that bars a party from denying or alleging a certain fact owing to that party's previous conduct, allegation, or denial.”

Hence, in this case, where the tenant has signed a deed of surrender, the landlord is entitled to rely on it and take action accordingly, such that the tenant cannot then come back and deny the surrender. In doing so, the landlord would be prejudiced and therefore the tenant is “estopped” from changing his mind.

It might turn on what if any terms were set out in the surrender document.

I am not a lawyer however....

Steve From Leicester

16:08 PM, 20th February 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steve Masters" at "20/02/2014 - 15:34":

Yes, I think you'll be fine if you sign the deed after the tenant has physically vacated.

Robert's situation is different. He'd be well advised to seek proper legal advice and I suspect the advice he will get is "Play it safe, disregard the deed of surrender and serve notice"

Re Freda's comment, you could make a case to say estoppel applied, and there may be other legal arguments you could put forward too. However, that brings us back to it coming down to what an individual judge thinks on the day the case is put before him. Personally I wouldn't chance it.

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