Abandoned property...can we take possession?

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    Abandoned property...can we take possession?

    My parents have a flat which is managed by a managing agent. The tenants are in rent arrears and so I contacted the agent to find out what was going on. The agent said that he has been trying to get hold of the tenants with no luck. Without telling my parents he changed the locks on the property as he thought that they had abandoned the property. He apparently put up notices with a 24 hour contact number if they turned up and needed to gain access. Apparently there are still some personal belongings such a clothes etc in the property. This was around two weeks ago and according to the agent he has not heard anything further from them and wants to clear their belongings.

    Where do we stand about clearing out the property and taking back possession? We are not sure if there is a set period of time we have to wait? We want a second opinion as the agent can’t give us a clear answer as to our position.

    Any advice would be greatly received.

    Thanks

    #2
    You'd struggle to prove abandonment here, his belongings are still in the property and he has left a contact number. I think he could fairly defend any action by saying he was simply away and left his details. Him being away and not responding to the agent doesn't end his tenancy, only a possession order enforced by a bailiff does, or appropriate notice between parties.

    Are you saying he has confirmed he isn't coming back and wants his belongings? If so, get him to sign a deed of surrender.

    Comment


      #3
      Hi Hybrice.

      thanks for your message. It was the agent who left the number, not the tenant. The agent has not been able to contact the tenant for a while and they have not been paying their rent.

      The agent can’t get hold of the tenant by phone either.





      Comment


        #4
        I thought my property had been abandoned, people living there were away for over 5 weeks. Unfortunately they came back. The tenants have changed their number and are uncontactable and at the time rent outstanding was 9 months.

        Comment


          #5
          The agent had no right to change the locks, but they've done it now, so what happens will depend on the tenant.

          Legally, your parents have no right to retake possession, there is no process in English law to handle abandonment, the tenant not being there doesn't change anything.
          If your parents want to end the tenancy and retake possession, they have to either have the tenant make an offer to surrender the tenancy and accept it, or go through a formal eviction process.
          Which, currently, would take months.

          If they take possession (which is what the agent has actually done for them), the tenant can claim to have been illegally evicted - which is both a criminal offence and exposes a landlord to a claim for compensation.
          That happens very rarely in real life, but is a risk to be considered.

          However, the actions of the agent have stopped that being a choice to be made, it's been decided already.
          So I'd see if the tenant gets in touch.

          It depends if they've abandoned the property or just not been able to return, being in hospital, prison or stuck abroad for example.
          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


            #6
            jpkeates,

            Quite right, I read that wrong. My haste with my morning coffee before work lol

            As above, if the agent has already changed the locks then to be honest the damage is done. Unless your parents instructed them to do this, then it's a nice little fallback. As if you get sued for damage you could likely seek a judgement against the agent for their actions...Should it come to that, as JP says, that's very rare.

            Personally, I'd go through the process of moving the tenant's belongings into storage and providing them a tort notice giving them 28 days to collect them before disposal.

            Comment


              #7
              There is a difference between leaving some junk behind and not moving out. There is no good solution but the agent seems to be using common sense.

              Comment


                #8
                Codger,

                Firstly, how do you know? Did you see the property?

                Secondly, can you cite that distinction in law? No, because there isn't one.

                What happened was an illegal eviction. Now he may or may not get sued for that, but that has no bearing on whether it was the "correct" thing to do, it was not. Nor would we advise anyone to do that without more certainty on an implied surrender.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I don't think the agent showed common sense in acting without asking the landlord if they wanted them to change the locks.
                  They might have agreed, but they should have been given the option and advice.
                  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


                    #10
                    I would suggest speaking to an Eviction solicitor, they would have dealt with scenarios like this before, you could try 'chat with solicitors online' they are very helpful and quick with getting back to you. Id also suggest when you next rent out your property that you go for an agent that have rent guarantee so you're always covered if it ever happens again.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by hybrice View Post

                      Firstly, how do you know? Did you see the property?

                      Secondly, can you cite that distinction in law? No, because there isn't one.

                      What happened was an illegal eviction. Now he may or may not get sued for that, but that has no bearing on whether it was the "correct" thing to do, it was not. Nor would we advise anyone to do that without more certainty on an implied surrender.
                      It has to come down to a question of degree. If there are no clothes in wardrobes and no food in the fridge and just a couple of black bags filled with broken hangers, dead pot plants and old magazines it is safe to assume the tenant has left. Other checks for belt and braces are though worth carrying out. Speak to the neighbours and ask if the tenant said he was a moving or they saw him load his belongings into a white van. If you know who the tenant's employers are contact them to see what they know.

                      If the tenant has left owing rent and the terms of the tenancy allow it a landlord can forfeit by re-entry and there will be no illegal eviction.

                      The law is unsatisfactory in this sort of a situation as the landlord can be left in a sort of limbo. A code of practice landlords can follow is needed.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        There is a reasonable set of steps outlined in some legislation that has never been formally commenced.
                        Section 3 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 lays out a series of tests and steps that a landlord can follow to possess an abandoned property.

                        No housing minister has ever created the necessary Statutory Instrument to implement the legislation.

                        https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/22/part/3
                        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


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post

                          It has to come down to a question of degree. If there are no clothes in wardrobes and no food in the fridge and just a couple of black bags filled with broken hangers, dead pot plants and old magazines it is safe to assume the tenant has left. Other checks for belt and braces are though worth carrying out. Speak to the neighbours and ask if the tenant said he was a moving or they saw him load his belongings into a white van. If you know who the tenant's employers are contact them to see what they know.

                          If the tenant has left owing rent and the terms of the tenancy allow it a landlord can forfeit by re-entry and there will be no illegal eviction.

                          The law is unsatisfactory in this sort of a situation as the landlord can be left in a sort of limbo. A code of practice landlords can follow is needed.
                          I wouldn't say it's unsatisfactory. There is a clear path to acquiring possession, you might not like it, and it obviously has time/expense factors, but because we don't like a law or process it doesn't mean we get to declare it "unsatisfactory" and ignore it. I think it's unsatisfactory that I can't drive 80 in a 30 zone, as it's more convenient for me to get to my destination in 30 minutes, not 45. Think that'd fly with a copper? hah.

                          It doesn't matter to what degree, there is no concept of abandonment in law. Unless the tenant has agreed to end the tenancy and confirmed they've left, they could return at any point and be legally entitled to the property, even if it has been re-let.

                          https://www.landlordzone.co.uk/infor...the%20property.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I quite agree there is no concept of abandonment.

                            However, "Has the tenant ceased to reside at the property?" is a question which can be asked and answered, or at least finally determined by a court.

                            If it is the case that the tenant has ceased to reside at the property the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 does not apply. Since it does not apply the landlord is free to forfeit the tenancy if the terms of the tenancy allow and the conditions for forfeiture have been met.

                            My point is that there are going to be cases where it looks like the tenant has left but the landlord cannot be certain. A court order provides certainty, but requires time and expense. And if applying to court there will be uncertainty as to which procedure to follow. If the tenant has left neither a section 8 notice nor a section 21 notice will be valid. If the tenant has not left a notice to quit will be invalid.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              That article pretty much says the same as Lawcrunchers sound advice.

                              Comment

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