House abandoned no phone and locks changed

by Readers Question

9:49 AM, 28th October 2016
About 2 years ago

House abandoned no phone and locks changed

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House abandoned no phone and locks changed

After 2 problem free years, my tenant has stopped paying the rent. I phoned, only to find the phone had been cut off. I emailed without reply. I went down there and it looks like the tenant has gone. no one at home

The house seems empty although I am not 100% sure. I tried my key only to discover the lock had been changed.

What should I do now in order to take back the property in the event the tenant has left?

Martin



Comments

Neil Patterson

9:53 AM, 28th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Hi Martin

I think you are going to need to get a possession order as from what you have said I don't think you can be sure possession has been surrendered.

We 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.

Please also see our tenant eviction page >> https://www.property118.com/tenant-eviction-2/

Yasin Leysan

21:31 PM, 28th October 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil Patterson" at "28/10/2016 - 09:53":

Hello Martin,

As a landlord you have a right of entry to your property and also has right to check power and gas supplies of the property are safe and tenant has no right to change the lock without your permission so its within your legal right to investigate where about of your tenants and take back your home if he left

Jonathan Clarke

3:01 AM, 29th October 2016
About 2 years ago

I would

Put a note through the door saying you will be doing a house check in 24 hrs and you would like him to be there.
Do the house check take a locksmith and a mate and video it . Change the locks and put a note on the door informing them of your number the reason why you did what you did and inviting them to contact you to explain their actions and to pick up a new set of keys . Talk to the neighbours while you are there and record what they say. It could be supporting evidence for your subsequent action.

If inside it looks vacant and not lived in the chances are you are right but be aware your standards and tests may be different to theirs . I had one tenant once who just had an air bed and a few toiletries. He just used it as a base to visit his kids at weekends. If I hadn't known that before I would have probably assumed no one was living there. Look for clues. I also once had a tenant who was on remand in prison. He was still the legal tenant even though the milk in the fridge was curdled. I got my rent still though. I got written permission from them via their solicitor to go into the flat retrieve their debit card so their friend could go to a cash point so I got paid

When you have done all the investigation you can reasonably be expected to do then its a judgement call as to how long you wait until you re let. You have to weigh up the pros and cons. Personally I`ve never been to court in those circumstances to formally take back possession . I make that judgement call take back control of my own property and i re let it. Too date I have always made the right call.


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