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Top 10 laws and 'things to know', when a tenant leaves early

Posted 12/08/2019 by Your Move
Categories: Landlords
Ste of keys hanging up

A tenant might have found somewhere new to live, perhaps they can’t afford the rent any longer and they’re trying to negotiate, or they may already have fallen behind with payments and simply ‘disappeared’.

Here are the top ten things you need to know about your own and your tenant’s rights and obligations.

  1. The tenant can move out before the end of their tenancy if you agree to it
  2. If you do agree, it’s reasonable for you (or ourselves if we manage your tenancy) to negotiate a notice period
  3. Once terms have been agreed, these need to be put in writing and both parties keep a signed copy
  4. The tenant is liable for making rent payments until the end of the agreed notice period - or until you can secure a new tenant
  5. If the tenant has disappeared as the result of criminal activity, the police should be contacted
  6. To protect yourself against a claim of unlawful eviction from the tenant in the future, you should follow the legal process for regaining possession of the property. That means serving the relevant Notices (Section 8 or Section 21) and obtaining a Possession Order from the Court. Be aware this could take six to eight weeks, possibly longer
  7. If you believe the tenant has left for good – for example, they’ve cleared everything out and left the keys - and you want to regain possession of the property as soon as possible, you MUST establish that the property has been abandoned:
    1. Place an Abandonment Notice on the door of the property
    2. The Notice must state that the property has been deemed abandoned and give a number of days after which the locks will be changed if the tenant has not been in contact
    3. The notice must also state that the tenant has a further period of time (usually 14 days) to contact you for a new set of keys. After that, you’ll be able to claim vacant possession

The tenant could still challenge this process, although they’re highly unlikely to succeed. A standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy usually states that the tenant must inform the landlord if they’re going to be away from the property for more than 14 days. If they’ve been absent for longer that that, they’re in breach

  1. Any belongings left in the property still legally belong to the tenant, so you can’t just get rid of them. If there is no forwarding address, proof that every reasonable effort was made to locate the tenant is required. If you sell the items, the proceeds technically belong to the tenant but you can charge for the cost of clearing the property and deduct any other outstanding monies owed to you
  2. You have the right to pursue the tenant for all the money they owe you. However, if they’re already in financial difficulty and/or you don’t know where they’ve moved to, this is likely to be a long and expensive process
  3. The previous tenant's obligation to pay rent ends when new tenants move into the property – even if that’s before the end of their contract term.

If you’d like any advice on a specific situation, we’re always here to help - just call into your local Your Move branch

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