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Landlords guide to recovering abandoned property

Author: Tracie Croft

Once a tenant occupies a property as their only home, they have what is called ‘security of tenure’. This means that the landlord can only recover possession of that property lawfully through a court order or if the tenant surrenders the tenancy in writing and/or returns all the keys to the property.

So what happens if the tenant has not surrendered the lease but has left the property unattended for weeks or even months?

Prior to the introduction of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the only way in which a landlord could take back possession of the property legally was by obtaining a Possession order. If he did anything other than that he could be guilty of breaching the tenancy agreement and / or unlawfully evicting the tenant, which is a criminal offence.

However, since the introduction of this Act landlords of abandoned property let under an assured shorthold tenancy, can seek possession without a Court order if:

The tenant is in either 8 weeks, 2 months or 1 quarter rental arrears ( dependent upon the term of the tenancy) and;
The landlord has issued 3 warning notices and the tenant, occupier or deposit payer has failed to respond to the notice in writing.

Warning notices

Each of the notices must include certain information and give the tenants a prescribed period of time in which to respond in writing.

The landlord must give the tenant at least 8 weeks from the date the first notice was issued in which to respond in writing so although a court order is not necessary, relying on abandonment is not always going to be quicker or cheaper than applying for a Possession order especially if the accelerated procedure can be used.

Also, within 6 months of service of the final notice ending the tenancy, the tenant can apply for the court to reinstate the tenancy agreement if they can show a good reason for not responding to the notices. This could apply in situations where the tenant has been imprisoned and therefore could not respond to the notices.

Abandonment can be a tricky situation many landlords find themselves in because no matter how empty the property appears to be, if you take back possession without following due process the tenant can argue unlawful eviction.

Atherton Godfrey has a specialist landlord team to assist with all aspects of eviction and abandonment and can advise which situations would benefit from relying on this new law. If you have questions or require any assistance relating to this please contact the team on 01302 320621 or email