Most tenancies end amicably. There are some, however, that cause issues for landlords and abandon their property. As a landlord, you must give 24 hour notice to a tenant before you visit your property no matter how much reason you have to believe your property is empty. It’s important to follow contract legality because it can come back to haunt you if you need to take legal action on a tenant. With the ongoing pandemic and lockdown rules, people are choosing to isolate with their families and vacating their rented properties. This is particularly high in the student market as they have no tie to the rented area and no definitive answer if they will or need to return. Subsequently, there is a likelihood property abandonment will rise.
What to do about disappearing tenants?
Do not assume
It’s important you do not assume abandonment and immediately start changing locks and bolting doors. This includes if the tenant stops paying rent because you may want to take it to court. Once you have given 24 hour notice, visited your property and come to the conclusion of abandonment you can start the required legal process to end the tenancy agreement - this means issuing a section 21 or section 8.
If you are owed rent then calculate how much and if possible send it onto the tenant. If they are a student they may have a guarantor that you can chase to claim the rent owed. If not, you may need to recall conversations you had with the tenant to search for any important information. Hopefully at this point you have the tenants vetting documents, like credit reports, so if needed the tenant can be traced and found at a new property. Only till you have a new address for the tenant can you proceed legally because the tenant needs an address to service legal documents on.
A common problem is tenants leaving possessions behind them when leaving the property. Do not assume abandonment of possession because due to the Torts Act 1977 any possessions left at the property still belong to the tenant. You have a duty of care till the possessions are returned to the owner or disposed of legitimately. Disposing of the goods with the tenants through written confirmation is best. If not, you need to compile evidence that the goods are of little to no value before disposing. For future tenants, ensure to include a clause setting out a procedure if possessions are left in the property in the tenancy agreement. Check our recent blog to gain a deeper understanding of this issue.
The issues with tenants disappearing highlights how important the vetting process really is. It can be a labouring task for both landlord, estate agent and tenant but it's not something you can take shortcuts on. There are ‘professional tenants’ in the rental market who are well practiced in the disappearing act leaving their debts behind. To stop these problems happening to you it’s key to vet your tenants with everything from credit reports to rent guarantors. It’s not easy for all tenants to find guarantors and many have to turn to companies like RentGuarantor help secure a property and give landlords peace of mind.
Disclaimer: Rent Guarantor is not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information shared in the above blog is an opinion based on personal experiences within the property rental sector, and should never be construed as legal or professional advice.