Advice Needed! Eviction Noticed Served, Tenants Left but haven't returned keys

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    Advice Needed! Eviction Noticed Served, Tenants Left but haven't returned keys

    I am hoping that someone will be able to advise on a slightly complicated situation that I am currently trying to help a friend with as they are out of the country.
    His tenants haven’t paid rent since March. They were served a section 21 and the date for them to vacate has now passed.
    The tenants haven’t contacted the letting agent and have ignored all communication neither have they returned the keys.

    One of the neighbours contacted us to say they believed the tenants had left because they hadn't been seen or heard for several weeks.

    What has now become apparent is that the tenants have left but they have also snapped the keys off in the locks so that nobody can enter the property.
    So currently we have no communication from the tenants, an empty property which has also been damaged and one which no one can enter including the tenants.
    Do we have grounds to change the locks and enter the property?
    Also just to add to this information from the neighbours suggest that the original tenants had left some time ago and that there were people living there that weren’t actually the tenants.

    Part of the reason I have posted on here is because the management company haven't been very helpful with very poor communication.


    Thank you for your help.

    #2
    You /friend has 2 options:

    1. Send them a notice to inspect the property, giving them 24 hours notice. Then go with a locks smith and enter the property, if there is people living there and are not the original tenants you need to them ask them to leave. How are the sublet tenants getting into the property? Once the locks are changed, inform the original tenants to collect a new set of keys, and attach an invoice for the cost.

    2. You need to go to court and get possession of the property which will take around 3-5 months. Make sure all the paperwork is in order.

    Why did you/friend take so long, you should have served S8 on the tenants as soon as they were 2 months behind on rent.

    Comment


      #3
      First of all you need to establish if there's anyone living there.
      Send written notice of an inspection to assess the condition of the property (with 24 hours notice) and then go and have a look.

      If the property has been abandoned (and broken keys in the lock sounds like it), you have a choice.
      Your friend can go through the proper legal channels to repossess, or they can decide that the tenant has been asked to leave and has done so, and accept that reality and take possession of the property.

      The latter option is not risk free, but in reality is what I would do.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

      Comment


        #4
        This is not legal advice but I would

        1. Post inspection notice.
        2. Wait 24 hour and enter with lock smith + witness. Keep the broken key as evidence.
        3. Is no one is around, secure the property by changing locks, lock all windows etc, post abandonment notice on the door to get in contact
        4. Wait for a week, if no contact, then I would consider the property under my possession.

        Comment


          #5
          Thanks for both your responses.

          Apologies I should have mentioned I did go to the property myself yesterday and I had a set of keys I was going to enter the property as I was confident that the tenants had left but couldn't as the keys have been snapped off in the locks.

          The tenants have previously been sent abandonment notices, given notice that that the management company wanted to come round to see the property but they have just ignored everything.

          This is all being dealt with by the management company who as I mentioned haven't been very efficient my friend is going through the legal process at the moment which the management company are dealing but as mentioned this could like several months which just seems ridiculous as the property has been abandoned and the tenants clearly aren't planning to return due to what they have done to the locks.

          The management company as expected have advised not to enter the property but as they have been dealing with the tenants we don't have the tenants contact details or way of contacting them so we are just relying on a so far not very competent company to try and resolve this.

          I'm guessing what it would be useful to know is that if my friend decided they wanted to change the locks and enter the property (which I would have to do as they live abroad) what is the worst that could happen?

          My gut feeling is that they are just going to have to ride this out and go through the slow process of the courts.

          Thanks for your help.

          Comment


            #6
            Why are you dealing with this & not the LA?

            Comment


              #7
              If the MA is dealing with this, you should confirm if the T(s) are in communication or silent, if silent will indicate that they have run away. The MA are taking the right approach so that the LL is not going to be counter sued for T(s) being thrown out when they are there.

              It depends on your friends risk appetite, Low risk go to court (3-5 months process), High risk get property back next day (but depends if the T's return).

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks again for the responses.

                The Letting Agent are dealing with it but extremely slowly, they take several days to respond, and there were delays in them serving notice so there just isn't much confidence in them dealing with the process swiftly and competently I've researched them online and they have awful reviews.

                It doesn't help that my friend not only lives abroad but in a completely different time zone, as I live in the same town as his property I said I would help out.

                It seems clear from the advice on here that there is two possible routes to go down-I'm going to send my friend the link to this thread and then they can make a decision from there.

                Thanks again for the responses I really appreciate people taking the time to give their advice.

                Comment


                  #9
                  The risk here is Tenant comes back and tries to sue the landlord in court for unlawful eviction, enter without permission etc.

                  So the landlord has to proof to the court that the landlord has reasonable grounds to believe the property has been abandoned.

                  From my prospective (and I must stress this is not legal advice).

                  1. if you post 24 hour notice, this would allow you to legally enter the property unless challenged by the tenant, in this case if tenant is not there, no one will challenge your entrance.

                  2. At this point you can risk taking charge of the property straight aware, but I would only replace the broken lock and secure to property, as the lock has been broken, you have reasonable grounds to replace the lock as part of maintenance requirements from the landlord.

                  3. Post abandonment notice with your contact details, since the lock has been changed, tenants will definitely lose access to the property, and thus you could be pretty confident they are not living at the property if they have not contacted you within a reasonable period of time(say 1 week).

                  4. At this point even if the tenant returns and tries to sue you, you can make the case to court that you have pretty solid grounds to believe the tenant no longer lives there due to (property appears abandoned (no tenant possession), broken key returned, tenant have not attempted to access the property within a reasonable period of time).

                  Comment


                    #10
                    AFAIK 24hr Notice of Inspection only allows you to enter/assess propert & close open windows/doors (if T not at home), not to change locks, only to affix 'presumed Abandonment' notices on internal entry point windows, with time scale for T changing locks.. There is no 'abandonment' process recognised in Law.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      If the keys are snapped off in all of the locks, the property has almost certainly been abandoned. The tenants can't get in either.
                      While there is always a danger of someone claiming illegal eviction that risk has two significant mitigations.

                      First of all, the offence is not made if the property is repossessed by someone who " had reasonable cause to believe, that the residential occupier had ceased to reside in the premises." Snapped locks support that reasonable belief. As would a video record of you entering to find nothing there. You can always leave if there is evidence that someone lives there. Getting a locksmith to let you in is trespassing if the tenant lives there, not an illegal eviction.

                      Secondly, illegal eviction is prosecuted by a local authority. And they probably won't do it in the situation described. It's very expensive for them to prosecute and they use the power to deal with rogue landlords. They're not interested in marginal cases they might lose (and which have no long-term social benefit).
                      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                      Comment


                        #12
                        By snapping the keys in the locks the tenants have done the landlords a favour since you now have very good evidence of abandonment. I would take the risk on this one, but take lots of photos and get a witness statement about the current state of the locks

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