If your landlord thinks you no longer live in your home
- If your landlord thinks you have abandoned your home they might be able to use the ‘abandonment procedure’ to end your contract without a court order
- You have the right to appeal against your landlord using the abandonment procedure
- Your landlord can’t use the abandonment procedure if you have a renting agreement that is not an occupation contract.
What is the abandonment procedure?
The abandonment procedure is a way that landlords can end an occupation contract without getting a court order if a contract-holder no longer lives at the property.
When can a landlord use the abandonment procedure?
Your landlord may be able to use the abandonment procedure to end your occupation contract if they believe you have vacated your home and do not intend to return. Your landlord can only use this procedure if your contract says that you must live at the property as your ‘only or principal’ home.
How does the abandonment procedure work?
You must be given written notice from your landlord stating that they believe you no longer live in your home and that they intend to end your contract. This notice should give you 4 weeks to respond.
Your landlord must make reasonable enquiries into whether you have abandoned the property. For example, your landlord could contact a family member if they are unable to contact you.
At the end of the 4-week period, if the landlord still has good reason to believe you have abandoned the property, they must give further notice informing you that the contract has ended. They can then take possession of the property.
Reducing the risk of your landlord using the abandonment procedure
There are some things you can do to prevent the landlord wrongly thinking you have abandoned your home.
Check your contract carefully to see if it says you must inform your landlord if you are going away for a specific length of time. It is likely to be a supplementary term of your contract to inform the landlord if you are going away for 28 days or more.
Make sure that the landlord has a way of contacting you if you are away. Providing your email address and asking the landlord to email you notices as well as sending correspondence and notices to the property is usually a good idea. Keep a record of you telling the landlord you are going away, when you hope to return and your request to be contacted by email.
If your home will be left empty while you are away may want to ask a trusted friend or family member to check the property. This can be a good idea but remember you are responsible for any visitors allowed into your home even if you are not there.
These are just a few things you can do to prevent problems arising.
What if I have left belongings in the property?
If you have abandoned the property and left belongings at the property, the landlord has a duty to keep them safe for 4 weeks after your occupation contract. This does not apply to anything perishable, such as food, or to anything that it would very expensive or inconvenient for the landlord to keep safe.
The landlord should make the belongings available for you to collect during the 4-week period. However, they may charge you any costs involved in looking after the property or arranging for delivery or collection of your belongings. At the end of the 4 weeks the landlord can dispose of your belongings.
If the landlord receives any money from the disposal of your belongings, they may deduct this from rent arrears or costs involved in dealing with your belongings.
What can I do if I am wrongly evicted using the abandonment procedure?
If you have been wrongly evicted through the abandonment procedure, you should contact your landlord as soon as possible to explain the situation. You should ask the landlord to allow you back into the property.
If the landlord refuses to allow you back in, you can appeal against their decision in the county court. Court can be complicated and stressful so get help urgently. It is important to inform the court if:
- you did not receive the 4-week ‘warning’ notice
- you don’t believe the landlord tried to find out if you had abandoned the property in the 4-week period
- there was a good reason for you not responding to the ‘warning’ notice
- the landlord did not have a good reason for deciding that you abandoned the property
- you have incurred costs, or are likely to have costs, if you aren’t allowed back into your home (e.g., hotel accommodation fees)
- you or other members of your household have experienced health issues or emotional distress as a result of losing your home or belongings
If your appeal is successful the court might reverse the landlord’s decision to end your contract and order that the landlord lets you back into the property.
If your landlord has rented the property to new contract-holder/s, the court can also order the landlord to provide you with suitable alternative accommodation.
You might be able to get help with court costs through legal aid. You may be eligible for legal aid if you claim certain benefits or have a low income. Contact Civil Legal Advice to find out if you qualify for legal aid.