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Tenant believed to be in prison – what should the landlord do?

wormwood_scrubsHere is a question to the blog clinic from Holly who is a landlord

Please help me if you can. I have recently found out through the grapevine that the tenant renting my flat has been sent to prison. I don’t know what or how long for.

The rent has stopped but his possessions are still inside. There is a guarantor but I have been unable to contact him.

What can I do without breaking the law myself? I want my flat back and the belongings removed so they are not my responsibility.

I am afraid that fact that the tenant is in prison does not entitle you to change the locks.  There is case law which confirms this.  So unless you can find the tenant and get his agreement to ending the tenancy, you will have to get a court order.

If you already have a section 21 notice served, use that and the accelerated procedure.  Otherwise you will need to use the serious rent arrears ground.  Presumably the rent is now or will shortly be in two months arrears of rent so that should not be a problem.

If you find out for certain that he is in prison, you can send notices and paperwork to him via the prison service and they will ensure that he gets it.

For guidance on bringing the proceedings for possession, see my do it yourself kit.

Once you have got an order for possession and have changed the locks, before you can dispose of the tenants possessions, you will need to send him a letter under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 (Ben discusses this here).  Again, you can do this via the Prison service.

Wormwood Scrubs Prison picture on Fickr

About the author

Tessa Shepperson Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is also a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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2 Responses to Tenant believed to be in prison – what should the landlord do?

  1. One thing to consider as well is, whether or not the guy is on remand or doing a sentence. Housing benefit will pay for 52 weeks where a person is on remand but only 13 weeks if it is a full custodial sentence.

    This website can help you trace a prisoner http://www.justice.gov.uk/offenders/prisoner-location-service

    You can tell I do a lot of this 

  2. Interesting post! In my jurisdiction, the answer would be the same; a tenant furthermore is held to actually use the rented house.




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


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