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A third of landlords have had a property abandoned by tenants

Some 36% of UK landlords have had a property abandoned by tenants, according to research.

Abandonment – which occurs when a tenant leaves a property before the end of their tenancy without informing their landlords – can see landlords faced with a lengthy legal process if they want to regain possession of their property.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) – which carried out the study – says abandonment can be costly for landlords as if often occurs when outstanding rent is owed.

When a tenant abandons a rental property they still have the legal right to return and take up residence at any time and it is a criminal offence for landlords to try and stop them from continuing the tenancy.

Landlords’ only option is to legally regain possession of their property.

According to the NLA’s figures, the problem is most prevalent in North East England, where 58% of landlords surveyed said they have had a property abandoned.

The lowest proportion was recorded in the South West (31%), while 33% of landlords in the capital have had to deal with this issue.

The Housing and Planning Act – which recently received Royal Assent – includes measures to tackle this issue and the NLA says this news will come as a relief to landlords.

“The Act will create a new process to deal with the issue, giving [landlords] far greater security and peace of mind when recovering properties they believe to have been abandoned,” says Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA.

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

The NLA cites a London landlord, Richard Blanco, as an example of someone who has suffered from having a property abandoned by tenants.

“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,” says the landlord.

Adding: “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.”

Blanco eventually managed to track down the tenant and recover the keys to his property. The tenant then moved out but the landlord never recovered over £1,000 in outstanding rental payments.

“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,” he says.

The NLA has also praised a measure in the Housing and Planning Act which will allow local councils – rather than her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs – to keep hold of the money the make when prosecuting criminal landlords.

“We’ve long argued that councils should be able to hold on to the money they make when carrying out landlord prosecutions as this better enables them to implement long-term enforcement strategies to tackle the rogues,” says Lambert.

“The Government missed the chance to apply these changes in [the] Queen’s Speech, but we hope they waste no further time in giving councils these important powers.”

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