What is considered property abandonment?
If a tenant intends to leave their rented property for more than two weeks, they must notify their letting agent or landlord. This clause should be included in the tenancy agreement as protection for landlords, allowing them to serve abandonment notices and regain control of their property.
Landlords must use caution in cases of suspected abandonment since the tenant has the right to return to the property during the lease period under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If the tenant decides to return and the property has been rented to someone else, the landlord may be charged with a criminal offence.
Even if the tenant is in rent arrears, they are still the property’s legal occupier - unless a lengthy and costly court possession order is obtained. As such, before re-letting or accessing the property, the landlord must be satisfied that the tenant has permanently vacated and abandoned the property.
Under what circumstances is an abandonment notice legal?
In order for an abandonment notice to be legally valid, it must fulfil certain obligations and be based upon evidence that the tenant has abandoned the property. This may include providing proof of late payments, non-payment, or other violations that are recorded in the rental agreement. It should also provide guidelines on how to proceed forward with eviction if deemed necessary.
While abandonment notices can be served without going through court proceedings first, it is important for both tenants and landlords to understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to eviction laws in order to protect themselves from potential lawsuits or other disputes.
In order for an abandonment notice to be processed successfully, there has to be the confidence that the tenant has indeed ceased to reside at the property. An abandonment notice can be served in a two-stage process in an attempt to make contact with the tenant and be considered fair to the tenant.
The first notice stage
A note visibly displayed inside and put on the property is a good place to start. The notification should specify that the landlord believes the property has been abandoned, that the landlord plans to take possession, that the landlord intends to replace the locks, and the date when this will be done.
The notification must also include contact information for the landlord and the date it was placed. This notification does not need to be displayed from the exterior because any real occupant will have access to the property. It is also advisable to take a photograph.
The second notice stage
The second acceptable step would be to post a notice that is visible from the outside yet secure on the inside. The notification should specify that the locks have been changed and include information on where and how anyone who feels they have a legal right to occupy the property can contact the landlord.
The notice should include timeframes and the date it was posted. If the property is in a prominent location, such as on a high street, any notification of this sort effectively advertises that it is unoccupied. As a result, you must be cautious about where you put the second notice.
Landlords should first ensure the correct legal advice is sought. It is too easy for a landlord to make a mistake in these circumstances and end up with an even larger issue, resulting in trouble for themselves. By getting in touch with property professionals, landlords ensure that their property portfolio is maintained to the highest standard and that each of their properties is occupied.
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The abandonment notice team at AST Assistance is awaiting your contact. Find out how to get the results you need to serve an abandonment notice and regain control of your property.
Abandonment Notice FAQs
What constitutes ‘abandonment’?
This is when the tenant has vacated the property without giving notice or informing the landlord they have actually vacated.
What are some of the causes of abandonment?
A common cause is when the landlord has issued possession proceedings because of rent arrears and the tenant absconds before the bailiffs are instructed to attend. I presume to avoid confrontation with the landlord.
What should a property professional do when tenants have left while ensuring full compliance for themselves?
They should 100% be sure the tenant has left and not just gone away for a short time. They should ensure sufficient notice is given on any abandonment notice for the tenant to make contact with the landlord. When attending the property to see if the tenant has actually left they should be mindful that if there is any evidence the tenant is still living there they should withdraw immediately.
Should landlords send a personalised letter rather than using a template?
In order for the abandonment notice to be deemed legal and processed swiftly, it must contain the appropriate information and be delivered dutifully - which means placing the notice and other attempts of communication visibly, as well as communicating the beginning of the abandonment process.
Due to the various necessary aspects of the notice and its delivery that may not be apparent, the landlord would be best to seek professional tenancy advice and instruct their adviser to issue the abandonment notice to ensure their obligations are followed.
What should a landlord do with abandoned belongings?
If the tenant leaves belongings on the property, the landlord should allow sufficient time for the tenant to return to collect their belongings. There is no obligation for the belongings to remain on the property. This permits the things to be stored elsewhere while still allowing the landlord to carry on with their plans for the property. The notification must also mention when the products are ready for collection and when the contract to safeguard the things expires.
There is no specific time in law on how long a landlord should give for this, except that the time should be “reasonable”.
What is the risk of an empty property?
Many landlords who have only a few properties cannot afford for the property to be empty any longer than necessary. The waste of an empty property, along with the risk of the property being vandalised, means an abandonment notice should be undertaken as soon as possible.
What happens with the tenant’s deposit?
If the tenant owes the landlord money for rent arrears and/or damages, etc. then the landlord should be able to claim the deposit themselves.