Expert View: My tenant has left without giving any notice, where do I stand?

Here is the latest Expert View column from our Director Neil Shaw - this time about the thorny issue of 'abandonment'.

Q: My tenant has left without giving any notice, where do I stand?

A: Technically, the scenario you are talking about is called ‘abandonment’.

Abandonment is when a tenant leaves a property before the end of their tenancy without informing the landlord or letting agent.

It is a situation every landlord and letting agent dreads: turning up to a property to find that seemingly the tenant has departed – and it is often unclear whether he or she is returning or not.

Research from the National Landlords Association (NLA) has shown that more than a third of landlords (36%) have had a property abandoned by tenants.

Although most tenants will simply disappear, they do still have the legal right to return at any time; the landlord or lettings agent can do very little about this.

Frustratingly, landlords or letting agents face potentially lengthy and costly legal action to regain possession.

The cost is even greater if outstanding rent is owed, as is often the case.

However, new Government rules are set to ease the impact – and cost – of abandonment.

The House and Planning Act, which has received Royal Assent, includes measures to tackle the issue.

They include a new mechanism allowing landlords and letting agents to legally recover abandoned properties without needing to go to court.

There will be no need to serve a section 21 notice or obtain a possession order, although certain conditions will apply. More than two months’ consecutive rent must be outstanding.

The landlord or lettings agent must serve at least three warning notices at certain times – including one affixed to the property.

The measures will give the landlords and lettings far more security and peace of mind although good communication and a healthy relationship between tenant and letting agent or landlord also go a long way to addressing any issues which may cause abandonment.

Dealing with arrears or other issues at an early stage will help prevent problems from escalating and tenants departing without warning.

However, the new measures will give landlords and letting agents greater power in the face of abandonment while perhaps encouraging serial absconders to think twice about walking out.

Using a reputable local agent through the Portsmouth Property Association will also help ensure abandonment cases are as few and far between as possible.