How do I repossess an abandoned buy-to-let property?

The new abandonment process – what you need to know

We recently received an email from a landlord client. He’d heard that the law covering abandonment had changed in 2016, and wanted to know if our article Help! My tenant has abandoned my property – what do I do? is still valid. A great question, and one we shall address in this article.

What happened in 2016?

In 2016, the government introduced the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Its aim is to support the delivery of more new homes in the UK. Part of the Act covers the process of recovering property that has been abandoned by a tenant. This should make it easier for landlords to take vacant possession – without the need to go to court and without the need to issue a Section 21 Notice or get a possession order.

What will the new law mean in practical terms?

The new law means that, as a landlord, you can take possession of an abandoned property much more easily and quickly. To repossess, these two abandonment conditions must be met:

  • The tenant must owe more than two months’ consecutive rent; and
  • Must have left the property

How can you take possession under the new law?

Even if the two conditions above have been met, you can’t simply walk in and take possession. The law insists that you follow a set procedure, which we outline below:

  1. If your tenant owes at least one month’s rent and you believe they have abandoned the property, you must serve a First Warning Notice. This must request that the tenant responds within eight weeks of the date of the notice being served.
  2. If the tenant writes to say the property has not been abandoned or makes a rent payment, the abandonment procedure ends.
  3. If you get no response and the abandonment conditions have been met, you can serve a Second Warning Notice. You must do this between two and four weeks after the First Warning Notice.
  4. If the tenant writes to say the property has not been abandoned or makes a rent payment, the abandonment procedure ends.
  5. If the tenant still doesn’t respond or make a rent payment, you can issue a Third Warning Notice. You must attach this to a conspicuous part of the property. You must also do this at least five days before the end of the eight-week period initiated by the First Warning Notice.
  6. If the tenant still doesn’t respond or make a rent payment, after the eight-week period has ended you can serve a notice ending the tenancy and gain vacant possession of the property.

(Note: The above process extends to serving notices on the deposit payer and named occupier, if different to the tenant.)

What the warning notices must say

The warning notices that you issue must:

  • Explain that you believe the property has been abandoned
  • The detail that a response must be received in writing by a specified date
  • State that you propose to end the tenancy if no response is received

Abandonment process: streamlined and simplified

As you can see, the process to take vacant possession will be much simpler and faster under the new law.

When serving notices, they must be served either in person or left at the property. They should also be sent to every postal address and email address that you have on record for the tenant, deposit payer, and named occupier. If you have a guarantor for the tenancy, you should also send to them.

Warning: the tenancy can be reinstated

A word of warning about the new abandonment process: if the tenant hasn’t responded to your warning notices but can prove they had a good reason not to, they can apply to the County Court to have the tenancy reinstated. If the tenant wishes to do this, they must do so within six months of the date the order was given.

That’s the good news… now for the bad

This new process is great news for buy-to-let landlords. Unfortunately, the process of passing new Acts of law through Parliament doesn’t mean that it immediately passes into law. It’s a strange system.

While most of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 has come into force, Sections 58 through to 61 – those that cover regaining possession of an abandoned property – have not. In fact, the government has not yet agreed on a date on when to implement the abandonment provisions in the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

For now, then, the situation is confusing for many. While the new laws are coming in some time, we’re still working on the old rulebook. However, it’s a fluid situation, and we know the law is changing. As ever, our guidance is that, as a first step, you should always consult with a solicitor before taking any action.

You can download the latest briefing (March 28th, 2018) detailing the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 here.

Once more, a great question sent in by one of our landlord clients. If you’ve got a question you’d like answered, contact the Ezytrac team today on  +44  01522  503 717. Your question could help other landlords – and providing that help is part of our mission.

Live with passion,

Brett Alegre-Wood

By | 2018-04-23T08:10:39+00:00 April 26th, 2018|Landlord lessons, Property Management|0 Comments

About the Author:

Brett has over 20 years experience in all facets of property, he owns various companies centred around property and is the driving force behind the education and training at Ezytrac. His companies have sold over £850 million in UK and London property and he manages over 1200 properties through his estate agency chain. Today he shares his time between UK, Australia and Singapore. He is married to Arlene and together they have 4 kids. Brett holds both the Level 3 Property Mark Qualifications for Property Sales and Property Lettings and Management.