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Tenant gave notice, can I change the locks now?

HousesHere is a question to the blog clinic from James (not his real name) who is a landlord

My Tenant’s lease had expired and was renting periodically,she gave me notice 2 months ago,since then she moved into a safe house (protective police custody due to abusive ex).

I have made clear that I need the house cleared for re-letting.  Can I just throw her belongings out? Change locks and re-let?

I have had no rent or returned keys for 3 months

It is always tricky in circumstances where the tenant has not returned the keys.  However if the tenant has actually given notice to quit and has then moved out you are in a much better position, as the notice  should have ended the tenancy.

However, if you are to consider the tenancy ended (and it is arguable that the tenant’s actions are not consistent with an intention to continue with the tenancy so I think you may be justified in assuming it is at an end) you cannot just throw her possessions away.

You are, I am afraid, in the unfortunate position of an ‘involuntary bailee’ and must look after them for the tenant.  You can move them however, so if you have any storage area available then I suggest you move them there, so you can re-let the property.

Before you can dispose of or sell the things left in the property, you need to comply withe the Torts (Interference with Goods Act) 1977.  You will find guidance on how to do this in Bens post here.

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Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.

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2 Responses to Tenant gave notice, can I change the locks now?

  1. It is my understanding that the tenants notice ended the tenancy on expiry whether she remained in the property or not.

    I think an offer to re-establish a tenancy would be a dangerous thing for the landlord to do.

    I do, however, agree entirely with Tessa regarding the ex-tenants goods.

  2. Speaking as the person who would probably be called in to take action in the event of a tenant complaint, given the circumstances you quote I wouldnt touch it with a bargepole.

    There is a duty of care to goods left. The Tort I wrote about mentions having to look after them for 3 months befre disposal but there is an interesting article on the Painsmith blog who, who are very reliable, which states if you put it in the contract you can get away with 14 days



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

The Landlord Law Blog from Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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Legal services are provided via Tessa's online service Landlord Law. Some advice services are provided by Tessa, other legal services are provided by specialist housing firm Anthony Gold.


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