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Abandonment of Tenancies

Under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 it is a criminal offence to unlawfully evict a tenant without either:

Invariably there will be times when neither of the two scenarios apply; it is up to the landlord to decide whether to recover their property without either surrender or a warrant.

Whilst the Housing and Planning Act 2016 does seek to introduce a new statutory code for landlords to use when seeking to recover their properties after abandonment there has been no guidance issued yet (as at July 2017). Until guidance is available landlords are still encouraged to proceed with caution as the counter claim against abandonment could mean you have carried out an illegal eviction. It is wise to assume in all abandonment cases that the tenant will reappear and claim illegal eviction.

So it is always recommended that landlords seek the appropriate advice when considering their actions as regards a potential abandonment by their tenant(s).

In helping to establish whether your tenant has abandoned your property it may be appropriate to:

If on inspection you believe the property to be abandoned you can make your own decision as to changing the locks. The test for abandonment is twofold;

If you are unsure after your inspection place a notice in the property saying you will be following the abandonment procedure unless the tenant contacts you within 14 days.

If you decide however to change the locks you must post an abandonment notice on the outside of the property advising that you have recovered possession, provide a number to be contacted on and how long the tenant has to contact you. It is sensible to send a copy of the abandonment notice to the property in case the tenant has a mail re-direct in place. If you do recover the property remember to observe the requirements regarding the tenant's possessions.

In short abandonment can be a grey area; to protect yourself as a landlord you should keep written copies of your actions, copies of notices issued and where possible photos or video evidence of the property inspection.