Tenant not removed property not cleaned and not yet returned keys

by Readers Question

10:29 AM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Tenant not removed property not cleaned and not yet returned keys

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Tenant not removed property not cleaned and not yet returned keys

I am a recent renter, and have the following end of tenancy problem.thumb

A week after end of tenancy, the tenant has not removed all his property (in spite of promises to do so), not cleaned the flat, and not returned the keys.

My agent has arranged tenant contract, but agreement does not cover follow up such as sorting out this problem.

Suggestions for best course of action very welcome.

Jason



Comments

Neil Patterson

10:37 AM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Hi Jason,

Has and how has the tenant confirmed that they have vacated the property as from your article this leaves a question as to whether they have surrendered possession or not.

You also have a duty of care to store the tenants possessions safely so if they have left you need to make contact for these to be collected asap.

Paul Franklin

11:20 AM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Yes first key question is has the tenancy actually ended? Has the tenant given you his new address and expressly stated that he surrenders the tenancy? Or has he signed a notice to quit? You do not appear to have vacant possession and the tenancy may still be continuing 'as normal'. Short of contacting the tenant again and again to chase for keys and have him sign a document to state the tenancy is surrendered and has ended, you would have to serve your own notice, s21 or s8 and if tenant is not resident perhaps a NTQ, then obtain a possession order.

Gary Nock

11:22 AM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Lots of questions here Jason. Did tenant give notice in writing? Did you arrange to meet them at the bookout to end the tenancy? Has the agent returned the deposit? Have you spoke with them to see if they are vacating?

Proceed with caution here. All indications are that they have not vacated and if you move their belongings out and change locks etc it is an unlawful eviction and you can get fined quite heavily. I suggest you speak with the agent. Even if you were only on a "Let Only" package then they may assist you.

David Asker

11:26 AM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Hi Jason,

Sorry to hear of your tenant woes.

For info, I wrote an article on the subject earlier in the year which should be of some help:

https://www.property118.com/disposing-of-goods-left-in-properties-after-eviction/83626/

Mandy Thomson

13:08 PM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

I agree with everyone else on here - it would definitely help if you had some hard evidence from the tenant to indicate that he intends to surrender the tenancy - preferably a letter signed by him giving notice that he intends to move out by a certain date.

However, whether you have this or not I would say you might have an abandonment and not a surrender (the indication of a surrender is the return of keys and removal of possessions). Notice is simply a forewarning of an intention to surrender a tenancy, and is not an act of surrender in itself.

As you are in contact with the tenant, I suggest you give him 5 days written notice that you intend to repossess the property, and will change the locks, and you reserve the right to remove his possessions if he doesn't collect them.

Post this to him (get proof of postage) at all the addresses you have for him, and email him a copy. Post a copy to him at the property too. Visit the property and take an independent witness with you and a copy of that day's paper. Take a photo of a copy of the abandonment notice attached to the front door, showing the front page of the paper in the shot (don't leave the notice in a place that's too prominent or you might attract squatters or burglars).

If after 5 days he still hasn't removed his stuff and returned the keys, you can change the locks, but the abandonment notice must state that he can contact you for a new set of keys within 10 days.

After 10 days, if he still hasn't removed his stuff or returned to the property, you can take possession of the property, but you must still give him at least 14 days to collect his belongings (post a notice to him at all known addresses and get proof of postage), though you can remove his stuff from the property provided you take care of it.

Take photos of all the tenant's belongings, and do a list, or better still get an inventory done (tenants have been known to claim they left behind expensive items that they later try to sue for!).

If the belongings aren't collected within 14 days, you can sell or dispose of them, but the tenant is still entitled to any proceeds of sale.

It is important that you follow the abandonment procedure carefully for your own protection, as until the tenant surrenders the property, in the eyes of the law that is his home and you are breaking and entering, for which the penalties are severe!

Gary Nock

14:01 PM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Mandy I was not aware the new abandonment provisions of the Housing Act 2016 had come into force. The Royal Assent was given in May this year and I understand the requirements for gaining possession in the Act are:

(a) there are either 8 weeks’ rent arrears (weekly rent) or 2 months’ rent arrears (monthly rent) and,

(b) the landlord has given sufficient notice to which the tenant (and any other named occupier or person who paid a deposit) has not responded. Three notices must be given, the second between two and four weeks after the first and the third at least five days before possession is recovered.

A tenant has the ability to apply to the County Court for reinstatement within six months of the recovery of possession and the Court may grant reinstatement if there is a good reason for failing to respond to the warning notice.

As an agent using the "common law" abandonment procedure prior to the Housing Act 2016 would have been a real last resort after all attempts to get a tenancy surrender document and property disclaimer signed.

Either way - if the abandonment provisions have been enacted then the qualifying criteria in this case do not appear to have been satisfied. If it's not ( and I cannot find an enactment date) then the approach you have set out is not for the less experienced landlord to use as a first resort.

I

Paul Franklin

14:18 PM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "02/09/2016 - 13:08":

Mandy you usually talk a lot of sense but I think you're wide of the mark with this abandonment notice 'procedure'. There is no such process to lawfully regain possession. As far as I can see what you have described would be unlawful eviction. As Gary points out, there will be a new process brought in under Part 3 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 but this part is not yet in force with no confirmed date, likely to be at some point in 2017. Even so, the process you have outlined does not mirror the process outlined in the Housing and Planning Act. In the absence of the tenant to surrender the tenancy there is currently no lawful way to regain possession of a property short of obtaining a court order after serving a s.21, s.8 or if the tenant is no longer living at the address, potentially a NTQ. "Abandoned" or not (which to be fair it doesn't even sound like it is in this case).

Mandy Thomson

14:49 PM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

In response to Gary and Paul:

The abandonment procedure I've set out pre-dates the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (which, as has been said, isn't yet in force) and is recommended by legal experts in order for a landlord to demonstrate that they genuinely believe the property has been abandoned and that they've taken all reasonable steps to allow the tenant to regain possession. It is recommended by Landlord Action

However, I do agree that the situation here might not be an abandonment, and I'm glad you pointed that out; I would advise Jason to only think of following this if he can't get hold of the tenant, and I would rather get a good letting agent or preferably someone such as Landlord Action to carry out the re-possession, than try it himself!

Paul Franklin

15:02 PM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "02/09/2016 - 14:49":

When you say recommended - I'd be surprised if they put this advice in writing/on their website etc? What they're talking about there really then is damage limitation in the event that you do get sued for what is essentially an unlawful eviction. Fair enough you could say, if one is looking for a practical way forward. Many I'm sure would 'get away with it'. But it doesn't make it legal and if enough landlords did it, some would get stung.

Mandy Thomson

15:20 PM, 2nd September 2016
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Paul Franklin" at "02/09/2016 - 15:02":

Please visit the page on the Landlord Action site I've linked to in my previous comment http://www.landlordaction.co.uk/site.php/media/landlord_action_in_ypn_tread_cautiously_with_abandoned_property

The abandonment procedure is set out in the paragraph that begins, "Based on the above.."

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