This is a question to the blog clinic from Alice (not her real name) who is a landlord.
I used an agent to let out a brand new apartment for me, which is my first ever time as a landlord.
The agents found a tenant and said they had done all the checks on him. The tenant had paid his rent, however, had supposedly been living in it for a month. Then I received a call from the police that two arrests had been made at the property under suspicion of trafficking, prostitution and illegal immigration.
The people who were arrested and living in the property were not the person who took out the tenancy. He has gone off the radar and isn’t replying to phone calls, emails or letters.
The two people who were arrested are still in the property though. I gave notice to visit the property with the agents as witnesses and the apartment is very dirty, some damage to paintwork and kitchen. It was obvious too that it was definitely being used for illegal sexual activity.
We served a notice of possession to the people in the apartment.. letter by hand addressed to the person who took out the tenancy, emailed it, sent it signed for recorded delivery and via text message giving 14 days to vacate the property.
The 14 days were up and notice was given again that we would be visiting the property to see if they had left. On this visit there were no clothes or personal items in the property however beds were still there and food in the fridge and cupboards, bags of rotting rubbish.
The agents then told me to put a notice of abandonment on the door giving 7 days to respond. After which they said I can change the locks. I want these people out but am I being advised correctly by the agents as I don’t want to be in trouble?
I’m sorry you have had such an awful first experience as a landlord.
As you may have seen from elsewhere on this blog, my view is that abandonment notices, so far as tenants are concerned, are of no legal effect. So I don’t think that you are entitled to go in and change the locks because of the abandonment notice.
However, this does not mean that you are not able to change the locks.
This is an unusual situation. Your original tenant has gone and the people living in the property were strangers. It is arguable that they are squatters with no legal right to be there at all.
In which case you are fully entitled to repossess the property – because they never had any right to be there in the first place.
Even if the people in occupation were the guests or sub-tenants of the original tenant, I think it is unlikely that the original tenant will come back to bother you. He did, after all, allow the property to be used for an illegal purpose and you have tried to contact him without success.
I think it is arguable that his non-appearance and the fact that the property is now empty, constitutes an implied offer to surrender which you can accept by repossessing the property. It is unlikely that he will come out of the woodwork at this stage and claim the right to continue the tenancy.
Even if he did claim the tenancy and compensation for illegal eviction, no Judge is likely to make any award in view of the circumstances. So you should be all right.
The other thing to say is that your agents have let you down badly by allowing this person into occupation and you may want to have a word with them about the checking and referencing that they did – (if they did any) as it was clearly inadequate!
Indeed you may be better off doing this yourself in future – if so my Landlord Law site may be able to help you. It is designed to help inexperienced landlords like you.
Find out more about my Landlord Law Service