Tenant has left voluntarily - can I change locks?

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  • Tenant has left voluntarily - can I change locks?

    I have a tenant who is claiming benefits whom I am trying to evict ... courts around here take forever! Currently awaiting for a Section 21 to take effect but there are also several months rent arrears now as she has not attempted to top up housing benefit (paid to me for last 4 months). Tenant is still claiming HB even though she left the property approx 6 weeks ago. At this point she emptied the house of everything including all furniture, valuables, etc. and all that has remained in the house over this time has been a pile of bin liners in the lounge containing items such as clothes, bed linen, etc. Tenant regularly returns to collect her mail and avoids all contact with me.

    Tenant's departure from property coincided with various debt collectors on the doorstep along with Northern Electric threatening to take her to court after several episodes of tenant and friends reconnecting the electricity after it had been disconnected (more than once) for non-payment of bills! With no electricity there is no heating and no hot water and obviously no lights so house is not habitable!

    I have to be careful here in assuming tenant has left don't I? She could be waiting for an eviction order so that council will rehome her. However in reality she has clearly left the property VOLUNTARILY and has not been living there for some weeks despite still claiming benefits from that address.

    Any suggestions on whether I can do anything here to get my house back - to be safe would I need it in writing from the tenant to say that she has left or can I simply assume that? Or do I really really really have to wait for courts and eviction via a Section 21 or a Section 8 ... many thanks in advance for any thoughts on this one.

  • #2
    This question has been asked a couple of times and Im yet to see what actually constitutes a vacated property. In the absence of such, you must use common sense. You need to weigh up the consequences. If you bite the bullet and re-occupy the property, what will happen if the tenant claim forced eviction and claims the property was still in occupation? You need to supply sufficient evidence that the tenant has given up his tenancy. SO the more the better. You say that you know that the tenant is returning to the property and letting himself in, therefore you KNOW its not been vacated. IF you can gain a statement and photographic evidence that you have a empty property, then fair enough.

    Once again its all down to a judgement, if it comes to that, cover all bases, if in doubt, wait rather than risk prossecution.


    • #3
      Many thanks for the advice dazzalock. I too wonder about how we define a vacated premises - given the absence of a definition maybe one solution is to have a list of common sense questions which the landlord tries to answer 'yes' to, for example, in my case ...

      1. Has the tenant told you they have vacated and won't return? (no)
      2. Has the tenant returned the keys to you? (no)
      3. Has the tenant removed all belongings from the house? (no)
      4. Has the tenant kept away from the property and not returned? (no)

      Maybe its not looking too promising after all!


      • #4
        very sensible


        • #5
          Jayne - Do you have any idea where she is living? If by any chance you do I would go there (preferably with a large friend) Ask her for your keys back and a statement that she has left. In return offer not to follow up on arrears. You might also point out that the HB office would not be very happy if they found out that she has moved out. The sooner you can re let the flat the better as at the moment you are loosing money every week. If you do not know where she is then I would take numerous photographs of every part of the property plus take a witness with you who will state that it is empty. Some years ago in the 1970's I had a similar situation, and our local policeman came into the flat with me. But I do not know if you can ask them now.( Have any other forum members used the police?) Also I would store the bin liners and contents carefully for at least three months. The law of abandonment is a really difficult one to interpret. Personally I would take a chance, but only with lots of evidence. Best of luck


          • #6
            A very sensible approach Jayne. However, my personal opinion is that only the first question really matters, but I would say it would have to be in writing. Good luck.
            Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.


            • #7
              Another point to note is that whether a tenant is actually resident in the property is immaterial....in fact whether the tenant is even using the property is immaterial. A tenant pays rent to have the use of the property, whether he even exercises this use doesn't matter. Fair enough he is behind on rent, but that is up to the courts to decide. And as you have said, he is using the property for storage and for collecting mail.
              Any posts by myself are my opinion ONLY. They should never be taken as correct or factual without confirmation from a legal professional. All information is given without prejudice or liability.


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