Problem with tenant - legal advice needede re Notice to Quit

(71 Posts)
iago Thu 10-Jan-13 20:36:35

More of a WWYD but would appreciate some imput. Sorry, this will be long.
We have a 2 bed flat which we have let out to a young single mother (X) for over 3 years. Initially the rent was paid in full by Housing Benefit. A year ago, she got an evening job and Housing Benefit was reduced. X was thrilled to have a job and paid the rest of the rent into our account without fail until Oct. I sent her a text reminding her of her commitment, and eventually she sent a text apologising, explaining she had lost her job and was trying to sort things out. As we have never had any problems with her in the past, we decided not to hassle her. (Also past experience has shown us that HB's wheels run slowly!)
In November, however, no payment from her again and she did not reply to my texts - which were not hostile. Same again in December, so we sent a recorded delivery letter which was returned to us this week. Yesterday evening we went to the flat and there was no-one in.
Today we let ourselves into the flat and found a mountain of mail in the hall. The electricity was off - cut off? - and every room had been trashed: clothes, toys etc everywhere and doors off hinges. It was clear she had been co-habiting as there were men's clothes and a note from a spurned lover. We suspect that there was a third adult living there as the 3 rooms had been rearranged as 3 bedrooms.
We are changing the locks tomorrow as we don't know who has keys to the place - and we don't want any more damage done.
So WWYD? We have to get the place straight and clean, possibly redecorated, for a new tenant. As soon as the Council know X has gone, we will lose all the rent and will be liable for Council Tax. We can't serve her with a Notice to Quit as we don't know where she is. WweBU to pack up all the stuff strewn all over the place and take it to the tip so we can get the place cleaned -you cannot see the floors in the main rooms. Or would this be illegal? (Dumping the stuff that is, not cleaning up!) Has she forfeited her rights to the flat by her actions?
Does anyone have any experience in this area? I have to add that we are really upset over this as we were fond of X. She was so proud of the way she had turned her life around and now it seems as if she has messed up big time. I'm particularly sad about all the daughter's stuff we will have to throw away.
Thank you for reading.

PartyFops Thu 10-Jan-13 21:50:46

If a landlord is almost sure abandonment has taken place, then they are advised to place a notice on the door of the property informing the tenant of their intention to regain possession of the property.

The notice should include the following information:

A statement from the landlord of the belief that the property has been abandoned and the relevant dates.
The landlord’s contact details and full name.
The tenant’s name and address of the property.
A statement asking any persons who know of the tenant or the tenant’s whereabouts to inform the landlord.
A date whereby if the tenant has not made contact with the landlord then it will be presumed that the tenancy has been surrendered.
A statement which recommends that the tenant seeks legal advice in relation to their tenancy.
If the landlord puts up the notice with a witness present (which is recommended) then the witness’s name should also be recorded on the notice.

A landlord may also decide to take photographs of the notice as proof that the tenant has been informed of the intention to regain possession of the property.

EllieArroway Thu 10-Jan-13 21:51:23

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

You had no business letting yourself into someone else's home. None.

You most certainly have no right to poke through her belongings, read her letters and change the lock!

Either change the locks back immediately or stick a large note on the door telling her to come and get a new set from you.

You are about to (or maybe even have) perform an illegal eviction - which carries a sentence of 5 years in prison, a criminal record and an extremely hefty fine. YOU ARE COMMITTING A CRIME.

If she's more than 8 weeks in arrears with her rent, issue a S8 notice.
If she's on a periodic tenancy issue her with a S21 (being very careful with the dates you use).

Let's make no bones about it - your actions have amounted to harassment & she has good grounds to sue you hmm

She sounds like a right pain in the arse, but I'm appalled at you, OP. This is NOT the way to do things.

IneedAgoldenNickname Thu 10-Jan-13 21:51:55

I agree with jengnr, are you sure nothings happened to her?

PartyFops Thu 10-Jan-13 21:53:04

The stuff I have posted is from a really good website I found, I think it is very good information - and I am a Housing Professional grin

iago Thu 10-Jan-13 21:55:49

Thanks, everyone. My main reason for posting was because I suspected that what I would be told was indeed what I feared: ie the tenant has all the rights! OH will not listen and says he will take all responsibility if he is wrong. (He is wrong!!) Hope he likes prison food. He thinks I am getting into a state over nothing. Thank you WormSkinRug: that link has given me some hope.

EllieArroway Thu 10-Jan-13 21:59:13

You can serve a notice to quit through the letter box.

I'm not sure a judge would agree that you had grounds to suspect abandonment - not paying rent & not being there when the landlady lets herself in (hmm) does not suggest abandonment.

Speak to the neighbours and ask whether they've seen her.

And, if you give any kind of shit about the law, don't change the locks tomorrow. It is the stupidest thing you could do.

(I have more sympathy with you that it probably sounds, but you are performing a criminal act).

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 22:02:44

Eviction is the only time we have rights on ourside. (as a tenant not as someone who has wrecked a property btw!)

In other cases of repairs and properties falling apart and not being fixed and short notice periods to find somewhere else to live and uproot our kids schools and away from their friends at 9 weeks notice and being charged huge amounts by letting agents to renew tenancy every six months we have nothing.

CloudsAndTrees Thu 10-Jan-13 22:05:57

It is outrageous that tenants can still have so many rights when they are basically stealing from people. I honestly cannot understand why we have laws that protect thieves over people who are just trying to look after their own property. angry

Gomez Thu 10-Jan-13 22:06:23

Lots of cuts and pastes here. Behaviour on all parts needs to be reasonable in the circumstance - particular with reference to criminal actions.

Change the locks. Tell her you have done so and she can get a new key from you at any time. Issue notice to quit tomorrow.

Gomez Thu 10-Jan-13 22:07:26

You can also clear up but I wouldn't advise that you dispose of anything.

iago Thu 10-Jan-13 22:10:31

PartyFops, I will be following your advice.
GoldenNickname: no, I am not sure that nothing's happened to her. She hasn't been in touch since late October. After we talk to the Council, we may involve the Police. But I think she may just have run away from her money problems. Don't want to get her into any more trouble.
Ellie Arroway: we have obviously done the wrong thing but for the right reasons. We've treated her like a foster daughter, visited her only when she has asked us, helped her out when the Police broke into her flat and changed her locks (Complete cock up for which we got compensation)etc etc. The note was in plain view and we touched none of her belongings - just stood in shock at the mess and the obvious male belongings. We were worried about her - still are. Will do the S8 or S21 notice.

bamboobutton Thu 10-Jan-13 22:10:56

Yeah! Bloody right it's outrageous! Bloody tenants wanting a home, somewhere secure to live and raise theirfamilies. It makes me sick.

hmm

Gomez Thu 10-Jan-13 22:14:46

Bamboo button have you actually read the thread? You do need to pay rent, stick to your lease and eh not turn the place into a shit tip to achieve all those admirable sentiments you have just stated.

TripleRock Thu 10-Jan-13 22:16:05

I really hope the tenant and her DD turn out to be ok.

bamboobutton Thu 10-Jan-13 22:21:19

Yes i have read it, ta very much.

No one knows what has happened here, op said at inspections the house is fine so obviously something bad has happened.

It still doesn't give anyone the right to let themselves into the flat. As long as there is no damage tothe flat, mould, pests etc then the tenant can live how they please as long as the property is returned in the same condition it was when they moved in.

JudgeJodie Thu 10-Jan-13 22:23:20

I had EXACTLY the same situation last summer. There are websites out there with amazing info but I am afraid most of it will not be what you want to hear.
Oh and the posters on the forums can seem pretty rude but it is worth reading what they have to say.

The best thing I did was join the NLA which has amazing info and a fantastic legal helpline available on joining. It is about a tenner a month and can be used on your tax return.
I tried three different solicitors, the cab, the council and shelter to get advice and all of them gave conflicting information. The NLA are recognised as a reliable source of information regarding all parties rights and responsibilities.

On the upside, despite a couple of months anxiety (and losing a bonus few pounds in weight!) all turned out well and we have a lovely new tenant in.

FredFredGeorge Thu 10-Jan-13 22:23:29

Gomez The right to a home, trumps the right to a business making a profit, it's the fact that so many landlords forget it's a business is part of the problem. There are pretty simple ways to regain possession which do take a short time, and if the tennant is penniless and you can't recover it from do cost money, but that's part of the risk of doing business.

It doesn't mean the landlords get to throw you out of the home on a whim, just like the people who get behind repaying money to the banks can't suddenly find the bank reposessing a house on a moments notice.

iago Thu 10-Jan-13 22:23:30

Happynewmind and Bamboobutton: I can assure you we have been good landlords and deliberately chose to rent to a single mother on benefits to give her a better start in life. We fixed and replaced things as soon as needed. When she first fell into arrears, I asked her to talk to me, that there was nothing that couldn't be sorted but she has not contacted us. What else can we do? We have a mortgage to pay. My son rents and I know how dreadful landlords can be.

TandB Thu 10-Jan-13 22:28:04

OP, you're on very shaky ground. I would suggest calling the police to report your concern for her welfare. This may also serve to give you some support for your actions in going into the flat without permission, ie you were worried something might have happened to her.

bamboobutton Thu 10-Jan-13 22:30:00

I wasn't having a go at you iago, my comment was aimed at cloudsnandtrees ridiculous "it's outrageous" comment.

Gomez Thu 10-Jan-13 22:31:44

But there was damage to the flat. Notice of visit was given. The business aspect is spurious. The tenants behaviour is unacceptable. And if you held a mortgage and maintained radio silence with you lender they would quickly move to formal action. However there is a fundamental difference in rights and responsibilities, on both parties, between a lending agreement - mortgage- and rental agreement. The tenant in this case, on the facts presented, has breached any number of the clauses of a standard lease and as such there are consequences.

CloudsAndTrees Thu 10-Jan-13 22:37:19

My comment was in relation to when someone hasn't paid their rent for a significant amount of time, which is the case with OPs tenant. I stand by it, it is outrageous.

It's not ok to steal hundreds of pounds worth of produce from your local corner shop just because the owners have entered into a business, and it's not ok to effectively steal someone's mortgage payments from a landlord because they have entered into a business.

JudgeJodie Thu 10-Jan-13 22:43:42

Having been the ll in the situation I completely get your point, however the phrase two wrongs don't make a right springs to mind.
Yes, the tenant has behaved badly (hopefully she has behaved badly and not something untoward sad) but it doesn't mean that because x started it the ll can do what is needed without the court judgement.
A section 8 can be fairly quick, although I would issue 21 and 8 just to cover any eventuality. A section 8 can fail at the court if a tenant shows up and pays enough off the arrears. A section 21 (if issued correctly) is a no fault and a judge cannot not give you possession. With other legal methods of eviction the judge can have discretion.

Cabrinha Fri 11-Jan-13 00:00:33

I have no idea if they would do this, but could you contact Women's Aid by email, give her name and say if she is known to them, could they pass on the message that you will not chase the arrears and if she wants you to take any of her things to an agreed 3rd party, you will take them?

Of course she could be anywhere... But all the things being left made me wonder if she had to go quickly - hence thinking she may be in a refuge.

Doesn't sound like you've spoken to neighbours though? They may give a good idea of what's going on?

tinkletinklestar Fri 11-Jan-13 00:01:47

It sounds to me like your more worried about the Flat than your tennant and her child.

If I was you I would be contacting the police, saying how out of character this is for her, which causedyou to go there as you were worried and can they help find her! She may of had to flee due to this x threatening her.

Sod the flat, a woman and child could be in danger!!!!!

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