My residential tenant appears to have left. What do I do next?
20 July 2018 by Kevin Booroff
It is quite common for landlords to find themselves in a situation where rent arrears have accrued, they are unable to make contact with the tenant and items of the tenant’s property remain at the property. The landlord will not know whether the tenant has left the property or remains in occupation.
A landlord cannot legally take possession of a rented property unless the tenant provides possession voluntarily or the landlord takes court proceedings and obtains a court order.
A landlord in this situation will be in a dilemma as if the tenant has left the property they may be able to re-take possession of the property but if the tenant remains in occupation taking possession may subject the landlord to both criminal and civil sanctions.
One suggested way of dealing with the dilemma is to fix an Abandonment Notice to the front door of the premises, post a copy to through the letterbox and send a copy by email and SMS to the tenant. The Abandonment Notice would state that it appears that the tenant has abandoned the property and unless the tenant contacts the landlord within a limited period of say 14 days the landlord will re-take possession.
The Abandonment Notice however does not alleviate the risks to the landlord. If an Abandonment Notice gives a 14 day period, nothing is heard from the tenant over the 14 day period, but the tenant then returns from a 3 week absence! The landlord will then potentially be subject to both criminal and civil sanctions for re-taking possession of the property without a court order.
The other option is for the landlord to take legal proceedings for possession of the property the usual grounds will be arrears of rent. There are disadvantages to the landlord of court proceedings, namely the property being left vacant whilst the court process is on-going accruing losses and the costs of the court proceedings. If in fact the tenant had vacated then these losses and costs to the landlord may be unnecessarily incurred.