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Tenant uncontactable and rent in arrears. Advice pls..


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Hi all

I have a new tenant. T moved in 28/06/08 with a 6 month ast downloaded from lawpacks.

I have had 2 months rent but T now missed two payments.

There is no deposit held as I didn't want the bother.

T's phone is dead (to me at least)

I have visited propertyseveral tmes and T is not there although all T's furniture is there.

I have given T a letter (witnessed delivery) explaining that they are in arrears and that they must contact me asap. Mentioned debt collectors but also assured T that as long as rent paid then they were welcome to stay (do not want to be bullying)

However T has not responded to letter, although T has seen it as I could see through window that it was no longer on doormat.

I believe that T has had dramatic change in personal circumstances and may be living elsewhere, at least temporarily.

I contacted council to ask if T had applied for housing benefit. Was told "not allowed to divulge personal details but can tell you that T has not applied for benefit on that property". The tone of voice led me to infer that benefit had been applied for for another property, however I cannot confirm this and the lady at the council could tell me no more.

I have T's DOB, NI number and bank account no. and sort code (from original application) and also T's mother's address, which I believe to be a long term address.

I want to gain access to property for maintenance reasons but I am not sure if I am allowed as I cannot raise T to gain permission.

If rent remains unpaid I wish to have T removed at the end of her AST which runs until 28/12/08.

I would also like my rent arrears if at all possible!

What is my best course of action?

Thanks to all responders....

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Hi Anthony - a few thoughts below:-

1) Contact the tenant's mother to find out where the tenant is and why he isn't contacting you. Don't do anything else until you have spoken with his mother.

2) Put a letter on the front door stating that you believe the property has been abandoned and state you will change the locks in 2 days if the tenant does not make contact. If the tenant is still living there then they will often make contact before you change the locks!

3) If not contact - change the locks. If the tenant makes contact then you MUST give him a key - irrespective of how much money he owes - otherwise you will be committing illegal eviction and face prosecution at the Council. At least he will be forced to make contact with you.

4) After 14 days recover the property under abandonment laws. It is important - if you do this - that you get as much evidence as possible to support your claim that the property has been abandoned and a statement from his mother would certainly help you with this. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you recover the property - put all his stuff into storage - and then find the tenant has been on holiday / in hospital / in prison for the last couple of months!

Good luck,


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I have a slight variation on the advice you have received so far.

There seem to me to be three main possibilities to describe the legal position at present:

a) your tenant is still living in the property and so is still a full assured shorthold tenant.

b ) your tenant has not given up possession of the property, but has ceased to occupy the property as their only or principal home. If this is the case, then they cease to be an AST but become, instead, an ordinary contractual or "common law" tenant.

c) your tenant has in effect offered to "surrender" or "give up" the tenancy. If this is the case, then you are entitled to enter into possession (e.g. by changing the locks) and by doing so you will be accepting the surrender. The tenancy will come to an end on the day you enter into possession.

Thats the easy bit, the really difficult bit is deciding which of the above applies in your circumstances and I'm afraid there is no easy answer. Key things that a court would take into accout are:

- physical signs of occupation - furniture etc

- is the rent being paid

- what has the tenant said

- how have you tried to contact her and how long has been going on?


With regard to the issue of only or principal home, its quite possible in law to have more than one home, but only one, by definition, can be the "principal" one. So, where does she spend most of her time, where does her mail go, where is she claiming benefits, these are the kinds of things that are used to decide which is the principal home if there is more than one.

A conversation with her mother might help throw more light on the situation? If she gives you some fresh information, the following advice might not apply, but for what its worth my guess on the basis of what you have said so far is that option b ) is the most likely. I wouldn't treat the property as surrendered (sometimes called abandoned) just yet from what you have said, mainly because there are still possessions in the property and you have seen signs of mail being moved.

On the assumption that b ) is correct, I would:

1. Serve a section 21 notice asap (just in case she really is still in occupation), but put a covering letter with it saying that you believe she is not occupying as her only or principal home, that she is therefore no longer an assured shorthold tenant and that therefore you are also

2. Serving a notice to quit. In many ways this is quite an old fashioned document. Its the kind of notice that you use to end a common law tenancy. If it's a monthly tenancy, it has to give at lease a full months notice, ending on the last day of the tenancy. Serve one through the letter box and you can, if you wish, stick one to the door with the accompanying letter. You can get NTQs from legal stationers or various on line sites, but be careful because (unlike section 21 notices for which there is no prescribed form) they have to contain a certain amount of specifically worded legal information. (If you are not going to get legal advice, my suggestion would be that you use a legal stationers version rather than an on line one).

3. Once the notice to quit has expired, enter into possession and change the locks or

4. If she turns up again, wait until the section 21 has expired and take possession that way.

5. I also agree that its worth applying for a money judgement for the arrears

Its important to stress that whenever you enter into possession without a court order, there is an element of risk, but by following the NTQ procedure you make it much more difficult for someone to claim that they were there all the time and that you have acted unlawfully. Ultimately it comes down to a judgement and risk assessment on your part. Are you reasonably sure she no longer lives there and that you have reasonable evidence to back this up?

Incidentally, if you are new to the business I would probably recommend that you get legal advice on this one. The lawyer will almost certainly direct you down the most cautious route ie the section 21, so you might need to push them on other options, such as item b ) above.

Good luck


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Thanks to each of you, some interesting points raised.

Unfortunately no sign of Mother at address given (address correct as credit checked)

Anyway have served section 21 at the property and had it witnessed. Also wrote T letter stating that I believed that they were no longer resident and had found alternative accommodation. Stated that they were still liable for rent and therefore would be best served surrendering the property officially to avoid debt mounting up on them.

T has been seen around town but not seen near property for weeks by any of the neighbours.

Hopefully will hear from them in next day or two otherwise may well be posting notice on the door and changing locks in due course...

Will post outcome anyway.,

Cheer, Anthony.

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Further to my last post.

I checked the property today and found that T's furniture was gone. There was the usual scattering of junk remaining but unfortunately no keys returned. The letter I left and the section 21 were gone. However one little nugget in and amongst the junk mail and rubbish was a note with T's new address on it!

So should I assume abandonment and change locks?

Regarding unpaid rent, what is my best option for chasing it? Should I serve section 8 (never done this before so unsure of process) or should I look for DC company and pass details on? (I have name, DOB, NI number now new address) If so anyone recommend one in North West/Yorkshire?

Also if I take possession of property does T's rent liability end there or can I pursue for loss of rent to cover period it will take to find another T?

Realistically what is the likelihood of recovery versus expenses involved (T currently owes for Sep and Oct but I probably have someone lined up to move in end Oct anyway so T will effectively owe 2 months plus new lock and cleanup costs which totals just about £1000)

All advice welcome....

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Looks to me like there is clear evidence of an intended surrender (i.e. no rent, furniture gone and no response to communications) so if you accept this, the tenancy ends as soon as you take possession.

Whether or not you can claim any rent after the date the surrender is accepted depends partly on your tenancy agreement, but you can probably claim until the end of the rental period at least.

On the issue of recovery, if you have an address its definitely worth giving it a go. I would write to the former tenant giving a reasonable period to pay then apply for a money judgement if they dont; the fees arent very high and the process is quite simple.


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