Illusive tenant

I have a property that I let out to a couple. Today the female told me that her partner has left and is saying he won’t be returning to the property. The contract is in his name and the rent is due on the 17th of this month. I’ve tried contacting him but no answer, what should I do?

You need to seek legal advice
This is an abandonment issue. You can’t just transfer her into a new contract
If it is all in his name she is essentially an illegal sublet and until you can confirm he has abandoned beyond all reasonable doubt the property is still his

Do you have a guarantor that you can communicate with?

No guarantor. She doesn’t want to stay in the property either. He is saying he doesn’t want to keep the house and for me to put it up for rent but I haven’t had an notice in writing. He sent me a wattsapp message.

Bad luck Narinder. Sounds like you need to list an ad with tenancy commencing 17 February and tell them they can move out as long as they do viewings over next two weeks. Let us know how you get on.

Thanks Nicholas that’s what I thought I will do.

The tenancy has not ended and the tenant is fully liable for the rent, whether living there or not. The tenants partner has no tenancy rights, but as he has left her in the property, presumably she has his permission to be there, so can’t just be removed.

I would contact him and remind him of the above and let him know that through her he still has possession of the property and that if he wants to discuss a surrender, then it needs to be vacant.

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He is liable for rent for the duration of the AST but how you will enforce it is another matter ( if you don’t know where he is unless you have NI number, forwarding address etc). Do you want the hassle then it doesn’t matter.
Ideally you should get him to sign a deed of surrender so it’s all legally covered as David has suggested
You can call the tenant liaison officer at the council. The fact he has sent you a watts app message is evidence of abandonment. As a government officer the council can confirm abandonment. The girlfriend is therefore squatting or an illegal sublet. The former can be removed by the council by calling the police. If all parties want to go get the council to witness the abandonment (that has gravitas should future issues arise) and draw a line under it and move on.

It sounds like you’ll lose rent but you you will not have other issues to deal with. So not too bad

I would call the tenant liason officer

In theory, removing the girlfriend could be tricky unless and until its clear that the tenancy has ended. I don’t think you can rely on a claim of abandonment when his girlfriend is still living there. You could possibly claim that his whatsapp message is an express surrender, but even that might be a stretch. There has to be a clear offer of a surrender and there has to be a formal acceptance of the offer and it should be clear that its immediate. If you removed her as a trespasser, which you can do with reasonable force, (not violence) then she could possibly challenge the assumption that the tenancy has ended and there could theoretically be a claim for illegal eviction. Having said that, I think its highly unlikely that it would happen and even if it did, I’m not sure it would work. She would need his cooperation for such as claim anyway given that she is not the tenant, which also seems unlikely. However, I would still say that your safest bet is to get him to remove her and then sign a surrender. Given that she has already said that she wants to leave, you could perhaps hurry this along by telling her that she’s trespassing, which she might accept. Whatever you do, don’t take any payment from her or you will likely create a new undocumented tenancy in her name.

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Thank you for your advice, it’s useful to know all the pitfalls. I will keep you updated.

If the contract is in his name abandonment applies to the tenant not the girlfriend.
The girlfriend would be classed a a squatter or sub lessee ( which is another headache).

When we have been in this situation getting a council officer to call protects you. As a caviat, though, I did take legal advice which I would suggest this chap does.

It’s always easier for solicitors to tell you what to do rather than clean up mess after you thought you were doing the right thing

In this situation proceed with caution

As the Government unfortunately never enacted the abandonment procedure in the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, we are left with a situation where proving ‘implied surrender’ is still a bit of a dark art. The advice to landlords is usually to gather and retain as much evidence as possible that the tenant is no longer in possession of the property if they’re going to risk that assumption. My feeling is that as the tenant has communicated with the landlord and has his girlfriend still living there, it can’t be an implied surrender.

The girlfriend is not a squatter because she had permission to enter the property, but if the tenancy had ended, she might be a trespasser. If the landlord were to reply to the tenant accepting his whatsapp message as an ‘express surrender’ with immediate effect, that would give the option to the tenant to correct this if its a wrong impression. He could then act as though the tenancy had ended and remove the girlfriend. I might be being a little risk averse here, but I think the landlord should just cover his back in case the likes of Shelter or CAB get involved.

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Question
If contracts have clauses for guests ( circa 72 hours) beyond that point does not another person staying in the property beyond that time point require permission from the landlord?

Did the Landlord know about the girlfriend before this point?

I agree with gathering as much evidence as possible. When the council were not able to attend our solicitor advised police attendance to determine abandonment and we did not got to the property till 930pm that day until they assessed the property first ( it was a very hostile situation with previous documented drug and abusive behaviour).
I have known an estate agent assume abandonment. The tenant returned nine months later ( the property had been let to another tenant in the interim) after serving at his Majesty’s discretion!

Landlord clauses in ASTs about guests are almost certainly unenforceable and a waste of time.

A fellow landlord from another forum often posts about the case of a tenant who successfully claimed illegal eviction after being in prison for 11 years. If I find the link I will post it. The point is, there is no such thing legally as an abandonment procedure. Its a risk to landlords. However, as the tenant said he wanted to give up the tenancy, the mechanism here would be ‘express surrender’ and the challenge would be proving that this is exactly what his whatsapp message means.

You say you rented the place to them as a couple. In this instance I always insist on having both names on the AST.
If you knew she was there and she had your permission, she can’t be a squatter. Sounds like she’s been abandoned, as well as the tenancy. Can she pay any rent? Talk to a lawyer yes, but I recommend you talk to her too, maybe a little kindness and patience would help you both.

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If the landlords accepts rent from her he will almost certainly be granting her a tenancy.

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Hi everyone thank you so much for all your advice. There’s a development since I first posted the topic. He has definitely left the property and wants to terminate the AST. She called and said she can’t afford the rent and bills by herself so she too will before the next month’s rent is due. I was sympathetic to her situation and she understands that she can no longer stay in the property. He has now sent me a message confirming that he won’t be living at the property any longer. So a positive results.

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Let us know if she doesn’t move out

I will do David thank you very much.

Suggest you get Professional ( Free ) advice - PossessionFriend.uk ?

Sorry to hear this Narinder. This is why I utilise the company let route, me and my partner don’t have to worry about any of this nonsense, rents paid and property looked after.