Abandonment of rental property hits more than a third of UK landlords

Landlords who see their tenants up and leave before the end of a tenancy is something that is probably more common than many would believe.

Indeed, most property investors think - or at least hope - it will never happen to them. Not only can it immediately hit a landlord’s rental income without any warning but it can also be extremely time-consuming trying to recoup some of the losses.

All in all, it is hardly surprising that most landlords would prefer not to go through the experience.

However, latest research suggests that more than a third of landlords in Britain have suffered. The findings by the National Landlords Association found that 36 per cent of landlords have had property abandoned by tenants before.

Abandoned rental properties

Abandonment occurs when a tenant moves out of a property before the tenancy has come to an end. For example, before the end of a shorthold tenancy agreement, which is typically six months but may be much longer.

It means lost rent to landlords who, legally, cannot put another tenant in the property while the current contract is in place. This is because the existing tenant legally still has the right to return at any time.

In fact, it is a criminal offence for landlords to do anything to prevent the tenancy from continuing. Until now, the only option for a landlord is to go through the legal process for regaining possession of an abandoned property - something that can take months. And while the clock is ticking, profits are diminishing.

Unoccupancy can also have wider implications on a landlords finances, including breaking the terms of their insurance. Many policies will include unoccupancy clauses as standard, which could leave you in a difficult situation.

It is possible, however, to get unoccupied property insurance should the need arise.

Regional variations

The NLA research found that there are regional differences, with landlords in the North East of England being the worst hit. A total of 58 per cent in the region have had a property abandoned before. It is followed by those in the North, with 51 per cent being affected.

By contrast, the lowest proportion of landlords affected is in the South West of England at 31 per cent, followed by 33 per cent of London landlords having had to deal with the issue.

How the Housing and Planning Act 2016 might help landlords

The Housing and Planning Act, which recently received Royal Ascent - hopes to address the issue. Landlords left with an empty property they believe to be abandoned will be able to use a streamlined process without the necessity of seeking a court order for possession in most cases.

It means landlords could be free to list their property for a new rental much more quickly - and there is plenty of opportunity to get exposure to the rental market via the best property websites for landlords.

Richard Lambert, NLA’s chief executive, 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”.

Have you experienced a tenant leaving your property before the end of their tenancy? Let us know below.

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