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Abandonment of property and storage of belongings

Sandra has had tenant in her property for the last 5 years. Her tenant recently got in touch to say was moving out and gave Sandra 4 weeks’ written Notice to Quit. However, since then the tenant hadn’t been responding to messages about arranging a final inspection of the property and returning keys. Coming closer to the end of the notice to quit period, a neighbour told Sandra that he though the tenant had already moved out of the property. Sandra again tried to contact her tenant but had no response.

 

Sandra contacted our Landlord Advice line who advised her to that until the tenant advises that she has permanently vacated the property or a landlord suspects the property has been abandoned, a landlord cannot enter the property without a tenant’s permission. Our adviser recommended that Sandra again contact her tenant by phone, email and also sending a letter to the property, to inform her that she suspects that the property has been abandoned and intends to carry out an inspection. Our adviser also suggested that Sandra have look around the outside of the property to see if there were signs that the tenant was no longer living at the property and also to check with Housing Benefit/Universal Credit to check if claims had been stopped and utility companies to see if there had been any recent usage at the property.

 

After following our adviser’s suggestions, Sandra was certain that the tenant had left and wanted to know how to access the property to carry out an inspection now that the Notice to Quit period had expired. Our adviser suggested she contact Environmental Health in the local council to inform them that she suspected the property had been abandoned. This is an important step in preventing any potential allegations of landlord harassment or illegal eviction.  The Environmental Health Officer advised that, as the Notice to Quit period had ended and there is evidence to suggest the property has been abandoned, Sandra could enter and take steps to secure the property.  As the former tenant still had a key, Sandra arranged to have the locks changed and asked the Environmental Health Officer to be present to act as an independent witness.

 

Upon entering the property, Sandra noticed that the tenant had left behind number of items including furniture, appliances and personal belongings. The property was generally in good condition with some minor damage. Sandra again contacted our adviser about what to do with the tenant’s belongings. Our adviser encouraged Sandra to take an inventory of the items, their condition and to take photos. While it can be frustrating for landlords, disposing of any items left behind can be seen as criminal damage so a landlord must first write to the tenant and give them 21 days to arrange collection of the items. If the items are not collected and the landlord intends to let the property again, the landlord must put the items in storage for a period of time, generally 3 months. A landlord should seek legal advice before disposing of or selling any items belonging to a former tenant.