Addressing Tenant Abandonment: Proving Abandonment and RenterBall’s Solution

A prevalent issue faced by landlords is tenant abandonment. However, proving abandonment to a court’s satisfaction can be a challenging task. Common indicators of tenant abandonment include non-payment of rent, absence of tenant activity, rubbish left behind, and neighbours reporting the tenant’s departure. Despite these clear signs, proving abandonment in court remains a complex process.

In 2004, the Labour government intentionally decided not to include proof of abandonment in the Housing Act, leaving the law surrounding abandonment unclear and perplexing. If a tenant claims they did not abandon the property (despite evident signs), it becomes exceedingly difficult for a landlord to contest. The law regards such situations as wrongful eviction, and the penalties can be severe.

RenterBall’s Solution to Tenant Abandonment

Suppose a tenant wishes to move out without informing their landlord (abandonment) and approaches a new landlord using RenterBall. In this case, the tenant faces a predicament. To sign a new RenterBall agreement with the new landlord, the tenant must first receive “No debt” feedback from their current landlord within the last 35 days. This requirement compels the tenant to contact the landlord to obtain feedback, effectively halting abandonment.

If a landlord leaves feedback indicating the tenant owes money and has not agreed to a repayment plan, the tenant will be blocked from signing a new RenterBall agreement. However, more cunning tenants may request feedback and, upon receiving it, sign a new RenterBall agreement with a new landlord without formally terminating their tenancy with the original landlord. While most tenancy agreements stipulate that the rented property must be the tenant’s primary residence, no rule prohibits having multiple rental properties.

The original landlord can pursue outstanding rent by knowing the tenant’s new address. Although the tenant has relocated, they remain responsible for the rent. Until a tenant formally ends the tenancy, they are legally liable for rent and council tax. A tenant may contact the council tax office and claim that they have left and are no longer liable. The council tax office will then attempt to pursue the landlord, who should inform them that the tenant is still legally renting the property and the council tax office should pursue the tenant instead. It is a criminal offence not to pay council tax, but it is rare for the council tax office to enforce this if a tenant has moved away.

Legally, the tenant has every right to the property until the day they formally surrender it back to the landlord or a bailiff returns the property to the landlord. Unfortunately, landlords often have to leave properties empty for several months while awaiting possession, even if the tenant has died or is in prison. They fear organisations like Shelter will defend the tenant and sue them.

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