No, it isn’t you that’s abandoned – it’s the property. According to the National Landlords Association, more than one landlord in three in the UK has had tenants walk out of a property they were renting before the tenancy was up without telling the landlord they were going. This may amount to more problems than simply needing to find a new tenant, because:
- It’s quite unusual for a tenant to be fully paid up at the time she or he abandons the property – there is almost always rent outstanding;
- Nor is the landlord free to let the property immediately to someone else, because – and this may astound the unwitting – even though the existing tenant has gone without so much as a by your leave, and even though rent is outstanding, the tenant still has an enforceable legal right to return and take up the tenancy once again.
What can you do? Until recently, the only option the landlord had was to ask a lawyer to start the legal process to regain possession of an abandoned property. That can take a long time, and it will certainly involve costs.
Rent guaranteed specialist, Assetgrove says, “the new Housing and Planning Act is meant to make it easier for the landlord to regain possession of an abandoned building, but the landlord will first have to give three warning notices in accordance with Section 59 of the Act, so we’re still looking at delays of a minimum of eight weeks and the tenant will still be able to prevaricate by responding at the last moment (even if the response does not involve returning to the property or paying the outstanding rent), so having an abandoned property will still be a serious expense to the landlord.”
2. No confirmed and agreed inventory
Unless a rented property is completely empty, the tenant is responsible for handing back at the end of the tenancy the property belonging to the landlord that was there when the tenant first moved in. This is, of course, subject to normal use – if the landlord leaves salt for the dishwasher, s/he cannot complain if the salt is gone when the tenancy comes to an end (and probably should complain if the original salt is still there), but the dishwasher itself should still be present.
The problem arises when there is no agreement as to what was present and what was not when the tenant moved in, and this comes about because the landlord did not prepare an inventory and have it checked and signed by the tenant at the outset. Courts are unlikely to accept the landlord’s unsupported word that something existed against the tenant’s unsupported word that it did not, and only an inventory signed by the tenant will make the landlord safe. It’s an additional cost, but central London estate agent LDG says, “Wise landlords have inventories prepared and confirmed by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks or the Association of Professional Inventory Providers.”
3. High Tenant Turnover
Every time a rental property has to be filled, there is a cost. High tenant turnover eats into rental income. Sometimes it can’t be helped – a tenant moved in, her or his circumstances changed, she or he moved out. C’est la vie. But there is frequently a reason for tenant turnover and it’s often one that the landlord can do something about.
Talk to your tenants. If you have too many, or they are too widely dispersed, to do that face-to-face, do it by email or by letter. Ask if there are any problems. If there are, fix them – straightaway. Landlords who listen to their tenants and take action when a tenant complains get a good reputation and keep their tenants for longer.
4. Problems with the security deposit
The landlord is entitled to take a deposit from the tenant. The deposit is not there for the landlord to do with as she or he chooses. First, it must be secure – the law says so, and if you don’t take steps to ensure security of deposit, you can have a serious problem. If (as is often the case) the rental is completed and the deposit taken by an agent, ask the agent to show you what security arrangements are in place. Not all agents are perfect, and there are cases every year where an agent absconds with the money deposited by tenants. If that happens to you, there won’t be any point in telling the tenant to get the money back from the agent; you will have to refund the tenant, and pursuing the felonious agent will be your task and no one else’s. London bridge estate agent Williams Lynch says, “Look. The Association of Residential Letting Agents maintains a register of approved agents, and checks the existence and condition of their escrow bank account every year. If landlords aren’t protecting themselves in that way, then why aren’t they?”
5. Neglect and damage
It’s by no means unusual for a landlord to discover that the property itself or something in it (furniture, carpets, domestic appliances…it’s a long list) has been damaged, either by the tenant or by one of the tenant’s visitors. You as a landlord may not find that out immediately, because (and it’s very important to remember this) landlords have no automatic right to enter a property. In fact, if you enter a rented property that you own without the prior agreement of the tenant, you are breaking the law.
A good tenancy agreement will contain all kinds of provisions and conditions requiring the tenant not to damage anything, and to repair it if she or he does. Sadly, the value of that agreement depends entirely on the quality of the tenant and – almost by definition – the kind of tenant who will be prepared to damage your property is also the kind of tenant who won’t give a fig for any agreement that may have been signed. The solution? Tighten up your tenant approval process. Avoid letting to the wrong people in the first place.