From The Landlord Law Blog

Here is a question to the blog clinic from Christine who is a landlord

“My tenants left the country three months ago, not having paid any rent at all since moving into the property the previous month.

As far as I know they have not returned to the UK..Their possessions are still in the house.

I delivered a Section 21 notice last month by hand giving them until yesterday to pay rent, or I would get a repossession order. Of course, nothing has been heard. What legal action can I take now, and what can I do with their possessions?”

Answer

You are in a difficult situation. Generally, you are entitled to assume that tenants have abandoned the property and go in and change the locks if:

They are not living at the property, and

They have paid not rent and

They have removed their possessions, and

They have left the keys behind

In this case only two of these apply – they are not living at the property and they have not paid rent. I don’t think this is sufficient for you to be entitled to go in and change the locks under the ‘implied surrender’ rule.

You will need to get a court order for possession.

However, you will not be able to use section 21 at the moment. You don’t say how long your fixed term is for, but court proceedings based on section 21 cannot be issued until after the fixed term has ended.

Further, the  section 21 notice cannot be served during the first four months of the tenancy (as clearly, this tenancy started after 1 October 2015).

The only way you can get a possession order for this property now, therefore, will be under the serious rent arrears ground. As there is at least two months worth of rent arrears due now, I suggest you serve a section 8 notice on them and issue proceedings on that basis.

So far as their possessions are concerned, this problem is some way off as you will need to get your possession order before you can gain access to deal with them – and getting the possession order will take you in the region of  four to six months.

However, there is a procedure under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 which I describe here.

Note by the way that there is a formal procedure for landlords to follow when a tenant abandons a property set out in the new Housing and Planning Act 2016 but this has not yet come into force so, unfortunately, cannot help you at the moment.

Click here to view the original article “If tenants have not been seen, or paid any rent for four months, what can the landlord do?”

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