When can I re-let room after tenant has done a runner?

by Readers Question

9:53 AM, 19th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

When can I re-let room after tenant has done a runner?

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When can I re-let room after tenant has done a runner?

Hello – I had a tenant who rented a room in a shared house. She received housing benefit and was supposed to pay top-ups of £10 a week or so, which she rarely did – around £1,000 owing.

She did a runner last month, leaving the place in a dreadful state suggesting abandonment, but with some possessions in her room and communal areas. The last Housing Benefit payment was received on 15 Feb, but the council has since been in contact saying further payments are suspended as they are awaiting a response from the claimant.

The tenant has not replied to any contact via email or text. This tenant was one who “knew her rights” and had, for example, refused to allow access to the property to investigate/fix issues, yet complained to the council about the state of the property.

At what point can I take it that she has surrendered her tenancy, and try to re-let it?

The rest of the property (apart from her room) has now been redecorated and I’m looking to re-let as a flat, through a good agency which will thoroughly reference-check applicants.

Once bitten, twice shy on this one!

Any pointers would be appreciated – thank you.

Angela

Comments

Martin Green

10:51 AM, 19th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

I’m in the same scenario, tenant in an HMO hasn’t been seen since beginning of December and is currently over 5 months in arrears of rent. Some of his possessions are still in the room. My understanding is that have to wait until they are 6 months in arrears of rent then issue a section 8 notice with a months notice . If still doesn’t return by then apply to the courts for a possession order .

Alistair Cooper

11:13 AM, 19th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

Sadly this is a dilemma landlords regularly face with the law being very ‘grey’ in this area.
To be sure of abandonment it is best to document everything with photographs and get signed statements from the fellow tenants confirming he/she hasn’t been seen. You are still required to take reasonable care of the tenants possessions; keep in storage for 3-6 months and make every effort to contact the estranged tenant by writing messaging etc to the alternative address you may hold on the Prescribed Info etc
Even then you as the landlord are always at risk of being accused of illegal eviction without a Possession Order. Even then it is recommended to go all the way to a Bailiffs appointment before emptying the room and changing locks
The problem at present with our almost non functioning civil (no) justice system is that it can take a year + to get to a Possession Order and Bailiffs Appt even after waiting until there are 6 months arrears before being able to serve a 4 wk notice Sec 8, so in total 19 months is not unusual! (If you serve Sec 8 before 6 months arrears 6 months notice before issuing proceedings has to be given!)
Unfortunately it’s a tough call between being accused of illegal eviction and losing £10,000 !

Paul Shears

11:27 AM, 19th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

Similar here.
I kept writing to the tenant and copying her separated parents. She complained that copying in her parents (Guarantors) was "unnecessary" but never collected what I saw as stuff that she could not be bothered to remove. I still have some of her possessions. Some I gave away. Others I threw away.
Other tenants have not been quite so bad but remaining tenants usually refuse to identify the owner of possessions left behind.
By definition, there is no point in wasting your time on the dumb and irresponsible. You have to make your own judgement call on how much work you want to put into covering your own back.
These people tend to go in one direction - downwards.
Just mitigate the risk to increase your chances of them not dragging you after them.

Kate Mellor

12:56 PM, 19th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

Abandonment is a bit of a misnomer. You need to be talking about a surrender of a tenancy as that is the only legal way to end a tenancy outside the tenant giving formal notice, or a bailiff eviction. A surrender can sometimes be less than 100% certain, as in this case.

A landlord has to be able to show with evidence that the tenants actions amounted to an intentional surrender of the tenancy.

Prakash Tanna

11:28 AM, 20th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

My understanding is that you still have to get a possession order through the courts or have a signed letter on file from the tenant that he/she has abandoned the accommodation and will not be returning. Without either of these you risk he/she returning months down the road and then stitching you up for illegal eviction and paying for her to stay in a hotel etc. For the sake of the extra pain of a couple of months, i'd get the possession order find a way to get a signed letter from her/him before re-letting.

David

11:52 AM, 20th March 2021
About 4 weeks ago

Good advice from Alistair above. Its not about the length of time, it's about the quality of the evidence. Google 'evidence of abandment' and make suse you have as much as possible. Sadly the abandonment section of the 2016 Housing Act was never enacted, but it is still wise to follow it to cover yourself if you are claiming Implied Surrender.

mastweiler@gmail.com

16:14 PM, 25th March 2021
About 3 weeks ago

Thanks so much for these responses; I really appreciate it. I will be collecting evidence of abandonment and getting a S8 issued I guess. We've tracked her down online but don't have a new address for her.

Thank you - I think I may shell out for some legal advice to make sure I do this properly.

Prakash Tanna

16:36 PM, 25th March 2021
About 3 weeks ago

If you want to trace the whereabout of the tenant then I have always found https://www.findukpeople.com/ to provide a positive result provided you give them as much information you have (d.o.b, NI No., previous address, etc.). As long as the tenant has changed the address on the credit card or mobile phone bill it usually shows up on their credit file within a month or two. These guys don't charge if they can't find the person.

David

11:52 AM, 26th March 2021
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by at 25/03/2021 - 16:14
If you want to claim abandonment, (implied surrender) then serving any kind of notice to quit on the tenant will undermine the claim as it will imply that you still believe a tenancy is running


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