Dealing with abandonment in social housing

In some cases, it will be clear that a tenant has abandoned a property – the property will have been cleared of furniture and personal belongings 

However, there will be situations where a neighbour may report having not seen a tenant for a while, or a social landlord may have had difficulty contacting the tenant and when you attend the property to investigate, it is still full of furniture and personal belongings. 

Social Landlords must have a clear procedure in place for abandonment.    

It is important that the locks are not changed prematurely and the property cleared, or a social landlord may be faced with a claim for unlawful eviction and/or a claim for damages for the belongings which have been disposed of.  

The following should be considered during any investigation into the abandonment: 

  1.  Property inspections – visit at different times over a number of days. Look for mail piled up by the door, whether there is rubbish in the bin, whether the garden is overgrown, are there any windows open, are there any signs of life? 
  2. Take photographs of both the inside and outside of the property if possible – keep a record of the dates the photos were taken.  
  3. Speak to the neighbours – check when the tenant was last seen, whether they have noticed anyone else at the property. 
  4. If you can gain access to the property, check the contents of the rooms, the fridge, the cupboards and bins for any sign that someone has been there recently – take photos and document contents. 
  5. If you can access utility information, does the usage suggest that someone is occupying the property? 
  6. Attempt to contact the tenant by phone, email, letter or contact the next of kin.  
  7. Serve a Notice to Quit at the property and ask the tenant to contact urgently if they are still in occupation. 

It is important for a Social Landlord to retain clear records. If the tenant returns after the property has been cleared and re-let, your organisation will need to prove that the tenant was no longer occupying the property as their only or principal home to be able to defend any possible legal action.  

If still unsure whether the property has been abandoned, a Social Landlord should apply to the court for a Possession Order before the locks are changed.  

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For more information and legal advice on suspected abandonment please contact us.