OpenRent Community

Can I evict a missing Tenant?

Good Evening.
My Tenant of 10 months missed a rent payment in December. I contacted him via text and e-mail, he replied saying he had been abroad for a family xmas holiday, and he was isolating with covid, but would get back to me the next day. Since then, no reply. As I pass the property every day I tried calling at the property (having said via e-mail I would do this as there was nor replies). Although lights were on, there was no sign of anyone in the property. Today I hand wrote a letter to him saying I would visit on Saturday with my keys to enter the property. I got a call from a ‘friend’ of his who had been to the property as he had told her I was kicking him out and he needed her to sell everything for him ! ? She then went on to say he was in Jail awaiting a trial (set for Feb) but he was likely to be sent to prison for a couple of years. She told me he said to empty the place out for him.
He now has no contact as no phone / pc etc, what with being in jail.
What am I meant to do? Do I need serve a 2 month notice on him and so can then rent it out again at that point? Should I change the locks to prevent any further access by anyone who I do not know?
Thanks in advance for any advice.

Can you get proof that he is in jail? If you can then that will help a great deal. I’m not sure what is public record.

Occupying the property is a vital part of the lease so no longer occupying it is cause for eviction but I don’t know what the process looks like. You ought to be able to go in on Saturday as you delivered notice and the tenant hasn’t contacted with refusal.

Your priority should be getting into the property legally to make sure everything is in decent repair and there’s nothing urgent in terms of damage. No frozen pipes, no leaks, etc.

Can you do a consultation with a solicitor who specializes in tenancy law? Get as professional legal advice as you can afford, because this could be sticky and you don’t want to make a wrong move by accident. One hour with a solicitor can save people a lot of heartache in honest mistakes.

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Thanks for your comments and recommendations. Some good advice there.
I literally just got the phone call earlier this evening, and so have only slowly been trying to devise a plan to see this through, and your thoughts are similar to mine. I hadn’t thought of contacting a solicitor, that is a great idea. Thanks again.

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You can’t take his friends word for it and a prison term won’t end his tenancy. You need to find out from the friend where he is being held and try to get him to agree to surrender the property. A signed deed of surrender would be best if you can manage it. If not then I would want independent witnesses who will write a witness statement.

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I agree that a prison sentence alone does not nullify a tenancy - however it’s required that the tenant actually occult the property. Would time in prison not negate this requirement and cause them to be in violation of the lease?

(Again this is why I strongly encourage going through a solicitor)

Its probably an unfair contract term in that a tenant can’t reasonably guarantee it. Even if a judge agreed that it was a fair term, they wouldn’t give you possession based on such a minor breach.

Edit - I’ve looked into it and yes the law requires landlords to go through eviction process and abandonment isn’t cause to end a lease. That is terrible, honestly. I do not envy landlords in this country.


My understanding is that it’s an incredibly important term. The safety of the property relies on it. If the property is left empty for a long time then things like a bust pipe or broken window go from minor inconvenience to massive property damage. It also leaves it more likely to be burgled or vandalized which again can do massive property damage.

I believe most insurance companies require the property to be inhabited to cover it as well.

If the tenant were able to guarantee someone regularly checked on the property, at least once a week but ideally more frequently, and continue paying rent then perhaps that would have to be allowed.

Leaving a property vacant for months or even a year is quite dangerous for the landlord, however. It would be highly unreasonable for judges to require landlords to put themselves in such a bad position.

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Sound to me like he has moved out and the friend has moved in.

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It may be an important contract term for the landlord, but in most circumstances it will be unenforceable.

Thanks again for your comments. A friend of mine (also a landlord) has had a similar issue and also suggested in the first instance if I can get the tenant to submit a surrender of tenancy document this would be the easiest solution. I have printed one off and emailed him copies too, to see if he will do this.
The more I think about the implications of this the worse it gets for me, if this doesn’t work!
Thanks again.

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Surrender documents should really be executed as a deed to be watertight. This means you, the tenant and an independent witness signing at the same time as he walks out the door. There is a model deed of surrender available on the Landlordzone website.

If he’s in prison how do you expect him to rep’s the email. Get the grind to provide detailed information to enable you to contact him, maybe arrange a visit and get a witness there to help, suggest it’s not one of the inmates.

Also if he’s definately not there , turn off all water, gas, electric. It will help to keep the property safe.

Make sure you document all calls, actions and outcomes, chronologically as you will need this to win your case- legally.

Also take photos if he has a car make sure you know the registration as this may help.