Here is a question to the blog clinic from Georgina who is a landlord
My question is have a changed the lock unlawfully and gained possession of my property?
Back in November I was given a possession order by the county court and the bailiff were due to come in about 2 weeks ago. Due to communication fault by the two parties, the bailiff could not gain access to the tower block as it is fob key system building. The bailiff waited outside the building for 5 mins and then left.
I was standing outside the property and found the door open and no one in as if they left that morning. The property is left in a very messy condition, I would say it is not fit for any animals live in that and also, noticed no personal possession at all. I rang the local locksmith and got the lock changed, then I left a note on the window, stating with effect from………the landlord now has the possession of the property, with my contact number. I also, left a copy of the court order on the window.
I would like to go and clean the property out asap, but I am worried that I may have entered unlawfully. I have not had any rent for the last 3 years, it has been a big nightmare for me and right now I just want clean the place up and put it up for sale. Please, please advise.
I think you should be all right. The danger you risk when re-entering a property in these circumstances is that the tenants will bring a claim against you for compensation for unlawful eviction (which technically is still possible even if you have a court order for possession).
However in your case I think it MOST unlikely that they will do this. Even if they were entitled to a claim (and I don’t think they would be), your financial claim against them for unpaid rent and damage to the property would far exceed anything they could be awarded.
However it looks to me as if they have vacated in advance of the bailiffs appointment. You should be fine. Don’t worry any more but just go in and do what you need to do.