Here is a question to the bloc clinic from Steve who is a landlord
I issued a 6 month AST 3 months ago and to date the tenant has not paid any money.
The tenant is claiming benefit and receiving that money direct to himself but not using it to pay his rent.
The tenant is not contactable and I have reason to believe he has already left the property being pursued by the police.
My question is, as he has made no payment “at all”, is the rent agreement binding as a contract? or can I end the tenancy immediately.
I don’t think you can say that the tenancy never existed if the tenant has lived in the property. A tenancy is not just a contract, it is a transfer of land.
What I suggest you to is find out what the situation is at the property. Take an independent witness with you and knock on the door.
If there is no reply use your keys to enter and have a look. If
- The tenant has removed all his possessions and
- Has left the keys behind
Then you are safe to change the locks and re-let the property. Leaving the keys behind in particular is generally considered to be a symbol of giving up possession.
If the tenant has left possessions behind (but not the keys) then I don’t think you can re-enter. However as he is in receipt of benefit you can contact the benefit office and let them know that the tenant is in arrears. They should then pay the rent direct to you.
If there are just a few things lying around and it looks as if he has gone but the keys have not been returned, then you may want to consider changing the locks anyway.
The general rule is that if a tenant’s conduct is inconsistent with an intention to continue with the tenancy, that is deemed to be an offer to surrender which you can ‘accept’ by going in and changing the locks.
In the unlikely event that you are wrong and the tenant decides to sue you for unlawful eviction you would be able to defend and counterclaim on the basis of the unpaid rent.
Have a look also at this post on implied surrender.