Tenant not handing back keys

by Readers Question

21:36 PM, 18th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Tenant not handing back keys

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Tenant not handing back keys

Tenant not handing back keysI have a tenant who text me on 17th March to say she would be moving out by the weekend as she couldn’t afford the rent any more.

I told her she had to give one months notice.

She said she didn’t have any money.

I said I could take it out of the deposit.

One week later I met her at the property, she had left a broken bed and some black bags in numerous rooms, other furniture had gone.

I told her she had to remove all her stuff before ending tenancy, which ended yesterday.

She text me to say she would meet me at the property at 7pm, but didn’t turn up. She is not answering her phone or texts.

I have posted letter to give 24 hours of my intention to gain access.

What do I do next? She still has the keys.

Can I gain access tomorrow and change the locks?

Any advice welcome please. 

Thanks

Christine



Comments

Mark Alexander

21:53 PM, 18th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi Christine

This is a tricky one, sadly it happens quite a lot, especially when landlords play hard-ball and tenants are in financial difficulty.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let your client go on the basis that they sign a tenancy surrender agreement and give you the keys - see >>> http://www.property118.com/surrender-tenancy-agreement/67939/ - it's often less stressful and less costly to cut your losses at the earliest opportunity in these situations.

The problem that you have now is that you can't prove to a Court that your tenant has surrendered the property. A text may be used in evidence but it will be highly unusual if your tenancy agreement allows for surrender by text. The fact that you haven't been given the keys either might be a sign that your tenant is looking to snare you into an illegal eviction claim. Sadly these are very costly and can even involve prison sentences but landlords are rarely aware of how serious this can be.

Most landlords would let themselves in, change the locks and hope they never hear from the tenant again. The unlucky landlords get a deposit dispute raised against them followed a few months thereafter by a letter from a claims management company claiming that their tenant has been away visiting friends only to return to her home to find that somebody else is living there and the locks have been changed.

I can't tell you what to do here, you have to weight up the situation and decide for yourself.

A lawyer will probably tell you that you need to serve a section 21 notice and then apply for a possession order in two months time. If you do that you may have several months to wait before you are in a position to re-let your property. You may also have a problem with your insurance due to the property being vacant for such a long period of time. You could of course make a claim for all these costs against your tenant but even if you win, it's not easy to squeeze blood out of a stone.

So, the choice is yours, take the risk or run up legal costs and lose rent.

As I said at the top of this comment, it's a tricky one.

Best of luck whatever you decide to do.
.

Graham Durkin

23:39 PM, 18th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi Christine,
I think Mark has covered most of the issues, I would take a couple of days out to try and make further contact by phone / text .Empathise with her position ,totally agree to her going, go and meet her at a neutral place,All you are looking for is your place back via a signed TENANCY SURRENDER DOCUMENT, but you will need a witness signature on it.(YOU CAN PRINT IT OFF THE INTERNET)
She justs wants out of the arrangement ,we know its not the right way to go about it,but iF your lucky it might just work and save a considerable period of time going down the official route to get possession of your flat . please let us know how you get on

Gary Nock

23:56 PM, 18th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Protection From Eviction Act 1977

5 Validity of notices to quit.

(1)[No notice by a landlord or a tenant to quit any premises let (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) as a dwelling shall be valid unless—

(a)it is in writing and contains such information as may be prescribed, and

(b)it is given not less than 4 weeks before the date on which it is to take effect.

I would not take a text message as a valid Notice To Quit. Mark and Graham are right. Invest some time in trying to get a surrender or get ready to spend time and effort evicting a tenant who may already have gone and doesn't give a toss about the landlord's inconvenience or loss of income.

Christine Turner

2:33 AM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Thank you so much for your advice. I have since found out that she has moved into another property just 2 streets away, I don't know whether this makes a difference. I am planning on visiting her in the morning. I will print off a tenancy surrender document and take it with me and try to be nice. Thanks again

Tony Atkins

10:12 AM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

I don't think her moving into another property makes any difference: she is allowed to have two tenancy agreements at the same time if she wishes. She still has a valid tenancy agreement with you, so if you enter and change the locks and attempt to re-let the property without her permission, she could take you to court for breach of tenancy.

I also doubt a text message is a valid notice to quit or a surrender notice: what if someone she knew played a trick on her and sent the message from her phone while she was out of the room? You cannot prove that it was her who sent the text message; you need a real, witnessed signature on the tenancy surrender form.

Jan Martin

10:46 AM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Christine Turner" at "19/03/2015 - 02:33":

Hello Christine .
Have you entered the property after giving her the notice . . You may find that your tenant has left your keys inside the property . Sometimes they do leave them . Hope she has . Take a witness with you just in case .

Mark Alexander

10:59 AM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jan Martin" at "19/03/2015 - 10:46":

Good point Jan, there is nothing to prevent Christine giving her tenant 24 hours notice of letting herself in. Obviously she must not enter if her tenant responds to refuse such permission. I would send the notice by post with a certificate of posting, which is free and does not need to be signed for. I would also send a text to the tenant as that appears to be her preferred method of communication, even though it is not recognised as a legal way to serve notice in law. Belt and braces required in situations like this though!
.

Christine Turner

17:40 PM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Thank you so much for all your advice, I entered the property today after having given 24 hours notice, there were no keys left. The house was beautiful when it was handed over to her, I almost cried when I saw it today. I have hand delivered a letter to her new address telling her I believe she has relinquished her tenancy and I will be changing the locks tomorrow at noon (24 hours again) I told her if she did not collect her stuff I would store it safely and charge her for it. I have copied all the texts (advice from my local council) where she said she was leaving, stating she would be moving her stuff etc etc Also told her if she wanted access after the locks were changed I would let her in to collect her stuff. I honestly think she doesn't want the stuff she left as she has downsized to a much smaller house. My first nightmare tenant. I have 7 rentals and have been so lucky thus far.

Graham Durkin

19:06 PM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Christine Turner" at "19/03/2015 - 17:40":

Hi Christine,
you have not mentioned whether you have got the Tenancy Surrender Document signed ,you are leaving yourself open to a legal challenge if not. you are taking a calculated risk this time and i hope it works for you but please take on board the initial post by MARK A. You never mentioned whether you took a deposit ,if so that might reduce the heartache this time ,unless she challenges that .Don,t like being doom and gloom but had to say .maybe when the dust settles, I would contact the other owner and let them know what happened to you so at least they have been made aware.

Christine Turner

23:27 PM, 19th March 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi, yes I did print out a tenancy surrender document but when I went to see her she either did not answer the door or wasn't in. I spoke to a neighbour who confirmed that it was her new tenancy, and that the landlord of the property had shared with her that he had a lovely family who had moved in. I am tempted to warn him. It was a letting agent who set up the tenancy for me and then I took over. Her deposit was and is still protected. She agreed verbally that I would keep the deposit for her last months rent. I spoke to my local council landlord liaison officer, who suggested as she had indicated in a text she had already left the property and was ending her tenancy, that I write to her at her old and new address and state that I would be changing the locks at noon tomorrow (24 hours notice) and if she had not ended her tenancy to contact me before then. Forgot to mention I did take a witness with me when I entered the property. The drains in the back yard are overflowing, and have been for a while by the look of it. She hasn't contacted me yet.

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