It is important landlords prepare as best they can, but sometimes, the unexpected happens. As a landlord, you need to know what to do if a tenant leaves the rental property early. There are several ways that a tenant can leave early, so it is helpful to be aware of a few scenarios so that you can respond as timely as possible.
If the tenant asks you or the agent to request an early end to the tenancy, you have a decision to make. If you agree to the request, the tenant can move out early. Of course, in this scenario, it is reasonable to negotiate a notice period, and once terms are agreed, these should be written down and signed.
In this scenario, the tenant is liable for rental payments until the agreed notice or when a new tenant is secured, whichever comes first.
Landlords must follow procedures when a tenant leaves early
If the tenant leaves with no warning, landlords must act correctly. If you, or the agent, has concerns about the tenant’s disappearance relating to criminal activity, it is worthwhile informing the police.
To protect yourself against a claim of unlawful eviction, you should follow the legal process, serving the relevant notices, which will be Section 8 or Section 21. You should also obtain a Possession Order from the Court. This process can take between six to eight weeks, but in some cases, the process can take longer.
If there are signs the tenant has left the property for good, you must establish the property has been abandoned. If the tenant has removed all their belongings and left the property, most people would assume they have abandoned the property. However, you should take the following steps:
- Place an abandonment notice on the property’s front door
- The notice should state the property appears to be abandoned and state several days, after which the landlord will change the locks if the tenant doesn’t contact them
- The notice should also inform the tenant they have an additional period, usually 14 days, to contact the landlord or agent for a new set of keys. If the tenant doesn’t do this, the landlord or agent will claim vacant possession.
In many cases, the tenant will not return or contact the landlord, but there have been instances where a tenant has challenged this process. In the majority of cases, the case will not succeed. For standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements, there is usually a condition that tenants must inform the landlord if they are absent from the property for more than 14 days. If the tenant is absent for longer and hasn’t told the landlord, they breach the agreement.
Tenants still own their possessions even if they leave the rental property
Remember that any belongings left in the rental property still belong to the tenant. You must not dispose of these items. If there is no contact address for the tenant, you must show you have made attempts to contact the tenant. If you sell any belongings, the proceeds belong to the tenant. However, if there is money owed to you, or you have incurred costs clearing the property, you may be able to deduct money from the proceeds.
The tenant is legally liable for rent over the full term of their contract, and a landlord has the right to pursue money owed. However, this is often a time-consuming and financially expensive process. If the tenant is in financial difficulty, it may be best for the landlord to write the debt off and focus on serving a new tenant. Once a new tenant is in the rental property, the rental obligation of the previous tenant ends.
“At Thomas Morris, we know how stressful having a void rental property is,” said Thomas Morris Huntingdon Branch Manager Alastair Smith. “It is important landlords follow procedures when a tenant leaves, and we offer guidance in this area.”
Letting your home is stressful, but with the right support, you can make the process easier. If you are keen to improve your letting process, we are happy to help. Book a valuation at a time that is suitable to you or; you can phone our Huntingdon branch, managed by Alastair Smith by calling us on 01480 414555.