What do you do when a tenant leaves and does not give you the keys?

What do you do when a tenant leaves and does not give you the keys?

23:43 PM, 7th March 2013, About 11 years ago 14

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tenant leaves and does not give you the keysYou may get tenants who from time to time leave without giving you the keys. You know the ones… They have some arrears, have left the house, shall we say “lived in” (by prehistoric savages) and don’t want to be accountable for their actions, so they “done one”.

Being a lawyer you’re then faced with the most used legal principle, that being “Sod’s Law” – ie this being the house that you did not keep a spare set of keys! So now you have delays and a locksmith to worry about to get in.

Keys also present a problem when a tenant loses one. If you don’t have the original, there is a locksmith cost again (£100-130). Or the tenant may put a brick through the door window and blame the neighbours…

There are other good reasons to keep keys. If you need to access the property for repairs, especially to do gas checks, you need to give them to contractors.

As a letting agent, the whole issue of keys can get frustrating – particularly the endless calls to locksmiths and visits to key cutting providers.

So we now have our own key cutting service in-house. What amazes you is the vast array of keys! We stock over 400. But now we can issue keys to tenants or contractors quickly, provide additional sets if required and we always have a master set at the office. It also means that we don’t have to wait around or waste time getting keys cut.

So the next time you let out a property, make sure you keep a master set 🙂

Best wishes,


Glenn Ackroyd

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3:58 AM, 8th March 2013, About 11 years ago

Problem is Glenn unless the tenant surrenders the tenancy and the keys a LL may NOT enter the rental property until eviction has been enforced.
I had a fair idea my non-rent paying tenant might not be permanently there.
I had keys; but unless for an emergency no way would I enter the property.
It took over 10 months for an eviction to be enforced.
The flat is 10 m from my back french doors; I monitored the flat, no lights etc.
You CANNOT risk entering the property until.
I even had the RGI company state I could enter the property once I achieved possession....................................yeah right!!??..........................tenant turns up 2 days later stating she had been away on a long holiday and preventing her from accessing her flat was wrongful eviction.
Me I would face a possible prison sentence!
The ONLY way to legally obtain possession is to either have the tenant surrender keys and a surrender letter; or possession, enforced by EVICTION.
This is the ONLY LEGAL way.
It cost the RGI company another month and a bit RGI rent but if the former tenant attempts access to the flat; she will be a squatter; and immediately removed by police as a squatter!
This is the problem with the pathetic evcition laws in this country.
Possession should NOT have to be enforced by EVICTION.
The judge has made a determination that a LL should have the property returned to him.
It is outrageous that a judges decision should have to be enforced.
What the judge states should occur.
So when I was granted possession that is it.
I should have been able to access my property with NO possibility of ANY sanction against me from the former tenant.
That is NOT how the law is presently constructed.

Freda Blogs

7:35 AM, 8th March 2013, About 11 years ago

I have a key safe at each property. Where bedroom door keys are also required, there is a key safe indoors. A small expenditure saves a lot of hassle! I don\'t give the tenants the access code. Another landlord I know, with a much larger portfolio than mine, has changed all his locks and has a \"master and slave\" system. I think this means that he can interchange any locks whenever required and he can obtain access into any of his properties via the master key. This sounds like a great idea but is quite a high upfront expenditure.


1:16 AM, 9th March 2013, About 11 years ago

Technically, if the tenant has not given you the keys he is still deemed to be living there and you cannot re-let it. The reality is that it's obvious the tenant has gone owing money and the locks have to be changed.

2:38 AM, 9th March 2013, About 11 years ago

TJ correct BUT; you have to post a notice on the door advising the tenant WHERE a key may be obtained.
Otherwise you have wrongly evicted.
Then Possession Order and eviction IS required whether or NOT the tenant is there or not.
A Possession Order does NOT entitle the LL to enter the property.
If the tenant is there and leaves on PO date then fine; if not an EVICTION order is the ONLY way legally to recover your property from a present or gone away tenant.
This can take months during which time your property is repossessed!!
ONLY an enforced EVICTION allows this.
This is what is so wrong with our pathetic eviction laws.
Not many LL are aware of these problems which is why lots of them get caught out and bankrupted.
Of course the tenant doesn't suffer at all!!
Which is why I only take on tenants on whom I have RGI.

Industry Observer

10:24 AM, 9th March 2013, About 11 years ago


all but lawyers and experienced professionals should steer clear of giving advice on abandonment, alleged or actual and what is or is not.

It will always turn on the facts and above all whether the Landlord has been precipitate in his actions i.e. waited until the tenants went down to Tescos and then nipped in and changed locks etc, or whether they tried every possible avenue to investigate.

There is nothing at LAW to say you cannot enter a property. There is plenty to say you SHOULD NOT but from there it turns on the facts, and that word making pawyers rich - reasonableness.

16:36 PM, 9th March 2013, About 11 years ago

I often find that tenants leave on the last day of the tenancy (They do not need to give you notice in these circumstances) without letting you know. You often then find that the keys have been posted back through the letterbox. I make sure I always take a photograph when I find keys like this just to have proof if needed in the future - as IO says it helps with reasonableness.

19:28 PM, 9th March 2013, About 11 years ago

IO you make a fair point; most LL however don't wish to go to court to test that reasonableness!
As in my recent eviction; I desisted from entering the property until eviction had been enforde.
The flat was 10 m for my back door.
I had keys but no way would I have entered.
My solicitor concurred with my actions and even concurred with my refusal to enter the flat even after a PO had been granted.
Eviction facilitated my entry as the tenant had not returned the keys or signed a surrender letter.
There are some wiley old tenants out there; just waiting for a LL to trip themselves up.
I for one will NEVER rise to the bait, no matter how tempting it is!!

Industry Observer

11:43 AM, 10th March 2013, About 11 years ago

@ Paul

No they don't you are correct, but if I had £10 for every time I have heard a tenant or ex tenant mutter about their rights, intrusion and suing the landlord I'd be sending this from my retirement hut on a beach in The Maldives!!

Generally what happens is that the whole thing is such a mess, including the property, but especially the arrears level, that the last thing the tenant wants to do is contest anything and is probably quite relieved the LL has taken the property back. This is because they believe their liabilities then end, which provided you handle the surrender (or non surrender) scenario correctly is not the case.

Mind whether you get any of the ongoing owed money is also arguable!!

But the claim against the tenant would normally outweigh the counterclaim by the tenant for damages etc for unlawful eviction by a long way, mainly because you'd be able to prove that your action was reasonable.

The real key I find is whosae benefit was the unlawful entry etc for? There is a vast difference between entering a property without consent to do a gas renewal (tenant benefit) and entering the property with an estate agent to measure up and sell (LL benefit).

No unlawful entry is good, but some is less damaging than others!!

Your solicitor is 100% correct of course. The only way to ever be absolutely certain in possession is by bailiff enforcement. But of course life has to go on.

Robert M

12:12 PM, 11th March 2013, About 11 years ago

But do you have right of access? Keys have not been returned, notice has not been given and (presumably) no court order. If you take the property back what is to stop tenant coming back a week later and claiming unlawful eviction!

Industry Observer

14:56 PM, 11th March 2013, About 11 years ago


Nothing at all - but don't assume automatic victory for them just because they do that.

Abandonment and alleged unlawful eviction has to be just that. As long as it is a genuine situation and on the balance of evidence produced by both sides in Court (like asking the tenant why there was 6 weeks post, why they never cut the grass, were never at home, had not paid the rent for three months etc etc) then it is quite open to a Court to find the LL has not acted unlawfully.

ASs I said this is a subject on its own and it is always very dangerous just to scratch the surface and to take the view you can never go in. Or never change locks.

Always best not to rush into it but never is a long time!!

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