Abandoned properties are a problem for a third of landlords

Monday, May 23rd, 2016 - National Landlords Association

More than a third (36 per cent) of landlords in the UK have had property abandoned by tenants, according to new figures from the National Landlords Association.

Abandonment occurs when a tenant moves out of a property before the tenancy has ended without informing their landlord. The issue can be costly as it often occurs when outstanding rent is owed. However, the tenant still has a legal right to return and take up residence at any time and it is a criminal offence for landlords to do anything to prevent the continuation of the tenancy.

The only option for a landlord is to go through the legal process for regaining possession of an abandoned property which can take months.

A big problem for Northern landlords

While on average a third of landlords have had property abandoned, more landlords in the North East of England have experienced the problem than anywhere else across the UK, with almost six in ten (58 per cent) having had a property abandoned. Just over half (51 per cent) of landlords in the North have also experienced the issue.

At the other end of the scale, three in ten (31 per cent) landlords in the South West of England said they have had a property abandoned before – the lowest proportion across the UK – with a third (33 per cent) of London landlords having had to deal with the problem.

The experiences of one London landlord

Richard Blanco, who had a property in Tottenham, North London abandoned a few years ago, said:

One morning I received a call from a concerned neighbour saying the door to the property had been left wide open. It turns out that my tenant just upped and left without any warning, taking his dog with him.

It’s a criminal offence to end a tenancy without going through the proper legal motions. I had to serve an abandonment notice which is basically an open invitation to squatters as it’s a sign on the door saying the home is empty.

Luckily I managed to track the tenant down and he handed back the keys and moved his possessions out, but I never recovered the outstanding rent of over a £1,000. In the end it only took me four weeks to sort out but the process could have taken months longer if I’d had to obtain a court order.

Ultimately I’m now very cautious about who I let property to and I make sure to properly reference and check all potential tenants before offering a tenancy“.

Tacking the problem

The news comes as the Housing and Planning Act – which contains measures to tackle the problem – recently received Royal Ascent.

Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, said:

The process of recovering an abandoned property is too long, frustrating, and costly for landlords at the moment.

Many people will be shocked by just how common this problem is, and landlords will be relieved to know that the Housing and Planning Act will create a new process to deal with the issue, giving them far greater security and peace of mind when recovering properties they believe to have been abandoned“.

The Housing and Planning Act also introduces stiffer civil penalties and banning orders for landlords found breaking the law.