Tenancy agreement

31

December

2016

One Third of UK Landlords Left with Abandoned Properties

New Housing and Planning Act, Will It Help or Hinder Landlords

Around 36% of landlords in the UK have had property abandoned by tenants at one point, according to new figures from the largest landlord association.

Abandonment occurs when a tenant moves out of a property before the tenancy has ended, without informing their landlord. The issue can be costly as it often occurs when outstanding rent is owed. However, the tenant still has a legal right to return and take up residence at any time and it is a criminal offence for landlords to do anything to prevent the continuation of the tenancy.

The only option for a landlord is to go through the legal process for regaining possession of an abandoned property which can take months.

While on average a third of landlords have had property abandoned before, more landlords in the North East of England have experienced the problem than anywhere else across the UK, with 58% having had a property abandoned. Some 51% of landlords in the North have also experienced the issue.

Row of Terrace houses
Row of Terrace houses

At the other end of the scale, 31% of landlords in the South West of England said they have had a property abandoned before, the lowest proportion across the UK, with 33% of London landlords having had to deal with the problem.

‘The process of recovering an abandoned property is too long, frustrating, and costly for landlords at the moment,’ said Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the National Landlords Association which published the report.

‘Many people will be shocked by just how common this problem is and landlords will be relieved to know that the Housing and Planning Act will create a new process to deal with the issue, giving them far greater security and peace of mind when recovering properties they believe to have been abandoned,’ he added.

The Housing and Planning Act also contains proposals to allow local councils to keep hold of the proceeds they make when carrying out landlord prosecutions as well as introducing stiffer civil penalties and banning orders for landlords found breaking the law.

‘We’ve long argued that councils should be able to hold on to the money they make when carrying out landlord prosecutions as this better enables them to implement long term enforcement strategies to tackle the rogues,’ Lambert explained.

‘The Government missed the chance to apply these changes in the Queen Speech, but we hope they waste no further time in giving councils these important powers,’ he added. Richard Blanco, who had a property in Tottenham, London, abandoned a few years ago, said that one morning he received a call from a concerned neighbour saying the door to the property had been left wide open. ‘It turns out that my tenant just upped and left without any warning, taking his dog with him,’ he added.

As it is a criminal offence to end a tenancy without going through the proper legal motions, he had to serve an abandonment notice which is regarded as an open invitation to squatters as it’s a sign on the door saying the property is empty.

‘Luckily I managed to track the tenant down and he handed back the keys and moved his possessions out, but I never recovered the outstanding rent of over a £1,000. In the end it only took me four weeks to sort out but the process could have taken months longer if I’d had to obtain a court order,’ he explained.

‘Ultimately I’m now very cautious about who I let property to and I make sure to properly reference and check all potential tenants before offering a tenancy,’ he added.