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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

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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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The purpose of this blog is to provide information, comment and discussion. Although Tessa, or guest bloggers, may from time to time, give helpful comments to readers' questions, these can only be based on the information given by the reader in his or her comment, which may not contain all material facts. Any comments or suggestions provided by Tessa or any guest bloggers should not therefore be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified lawyer regarding any actual legal issue or dispute.

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