During times of economic difficulty, the number of tenants leaving homes without giving appropriate notice and before the agreement has ended rises significantly. Desertion of a tenancy is a severe matter and may have a number of ramifications for your business. In many cases you probably will not even be conscious that your premises has been deserted until you stop receiving rent, which means it could often sit empty for as much as a month where it would have been subjected to greater risk.
If your rental accommodation is left empty at any time, it is essential that you keep an eye on it as closely as you possibly can especially during the winter. In the time of cold temperatures your property is at raised danger from freezing pipes, so you should think about draining down your plumbing anytime it is empty during a cold spell. No matter what time of the year your house is deserted, it will always be at risk from squatters, especially if the previous tenants did not take care to properly secure the accommodation as they left. As soon as you become conscious that your house is abandoned, it is likely you will be required to inform your landlord’s insurance company of the issue. Landlord home insurance is often affected if your home is empty.
When a tenant abandons a home, it is common for them to also abandon several belongings and even pets. Unfortunately, the landlord has a legal responsibility of care to protect belongings that are left behind, even when the tenant has deserted the home in arrears or following causing damage. Because leaving the home behind can be a sign that the tenant plans to return, a landlord also has to be careful not to breach the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
You are not permitted to deny a residential tenant of their occupation of the premises, or to attempt to do so, and can be charged with a criminal offence in the event you choose to do so. This means that although it might appear that a tenant has abandoned your home, you might be needed to obtain a surrender of the home from the tenant, or to obtain a Possession Order from the courts where obtaining a surrender is unachievable. By taking back ownership of a property and re-letting it, you might leave yourself legally exposed in case the tenant returns unexpectedly.
You should always seek legal advice if you believe your property has been abandoned and the best way to keep yourself legally protected is by obtaining a Possession Order. Signs of abandonment might consist of post mounting up, curtains constantly closed and empty parking places. Being familiar with the neighbours can assist you in a situation such as this, since you could get better intel and could have desertion reported to you far sooner. When you talk to neighbours about issues of abandonment, you should try to determine when the tenants had been last seen and whether they gave any sign of whether or not they planned on returning.
Take neighbours names and ask if they would be prepared to provide a statement if needed (although this does not necessarily mean that they will, so legal advice will have to be taken in these circumstances). If you do determine that you have reasonable grounds to enter the house, you must do so cautiously and with impartial witnesses wherever possible. If you find that the home is in fact occupied, you should prepare to leave quickly and hope that your tenants understand that you had been entering because you feared for their safety.
Under no circumstances should you force entry, only use your spare keys and if your path is barred then you should direct the issue to the police or the courts. Once inside, you need to confirm that the house has been abandoned beyond all reasonable doubt. Because an agent is required to report desertion to the landlord immediately, agents providing a full management service have to be particularly aware to be able to protect their own interests.