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.

iago Thu 10-Jan-13 20:41:46

Just checking my long post posted.

As far as I know, unless you have served a section 21 notice and gone through correct legal process - you have broken the law by letting yourself into the flat. This might make it very difficult now for you to legally evict, as you have breached the Housing Act. (2004 I think)

I'm sure someone will be along with a bit more knowledge about such things.

I am sorry that this has happened to you, and I hope that you can get it sorted with the minimum of fuss.

CloudsAndTrees Thu 10-Jan-13 20:46:40

I wish I had advice for you, but I don't. You have my sympathy though. Maybe re post in legal, or on one of the landlords forums?

I hope you get good advice and can get things sorted ASAP without too much loss.

HoHoHoNoYouDont Thu 10-Jan-13 20:46:55

The same thing happened with my tenant a while ago. I eventually found out she had vacated the property because the housing benefit dept had received an application from her at another address.

Your recorded delivery letter proves you have tried to contact her, this should be enough to cover your back against any illegal entry claim. If you took photos of the damage then better still. It sounds like she's gone for good so at least you can get a new tenant in.

Council tax is only 50% on empty property until you find another tenant. Also, housing benefit paid me for up to the time I realised she'd left the property.

Hope you get sorted soon, it's a nightmare situation to be in.

Fecklessdizzy Thu 10-Jan-13 20:48:15

It soundes like a bit of a rum do, alright ... Does anything in your tenancy agreement with X cover non-payment of rent and how many missed months constitute a breach of contract?

Is there a room in the flat you could stash all the stuff in just in case she wants it back whilst you do up the others?

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 20:49:11

From memory.

A section 21 can be used to evict a tenant with two months notice but only at the end of their fixed tenancy period.

So if the tenancy is 12 months you can give it on the 10th month that you wont renew.

Or if they are on a rolling monthly contract you give two months notice.

If it is because of arrears or behaviour you need to give a section 8 and must serve and then go to court to gain a possession order.

TBH it sounds like she has gone already although they may be just on holiday and really bad tenants.

If the tenancy is a rolling one I would be tempted to issue a section 21 and forget the rent/damage as the section 8 could drag on and cost more in court costs.

Here looks quite good:

https://www.propertyhawk.co.uk/index.php?page=bible&id=141

"Abandonment is the voluntary surrender of a legal right, for example, an interest in land or property - a tenancy.

By virtue of S5(2) Housing Act 1988 a tenancy can only be bought to an end by the landlord obtaining a court possession order or by a surrender or similar act by the tenant.

If the tenant appears to have abandoned the landlord’s residential investment property, this can put the landlord in a difficult position. This is because if the tenancy has not been surrendered or bought to an end, the tenant may return and accuse the landlord of unlawful eviction.

The issue of tenant abandonment is further complicated by the fact that tenants sometimes leave their accommodation unoccupied for long periods. In this situation it may either breach the terms of the landlords insurance or increase the premium due to the added risk to the insurer of covering an empty buy-to-let residential investment property"

queenofthepirates Thu 10-Jan-13 20:50:21

Righty ho, quite a complex one but in short, stop what you're doing before you end up in hot water.

1. You need to have a good hard look at the tenancy agreement. Normally you need to give the tenant 24 hours' notice that you intend to visit. If you didn't, you are in breach of her privacy and breaking the law. Sorry. An emergency overrides this but this isn't an emergency.

2. She may have gone on holiday so your next step is to back out of the flat, leave it as you found it and serve notice on her properly for failure to pay her rent. You serve it to the address of the property. Check the tenancy agreement as to how much you need to give and when it can commence (normally 2 months' notice). When that period expires and only if she hasn't vacated the property, you can go to court to gain legal possession.

3. Under no circumstances can you chuck her stuff in the tip, change the locks or set foot in the property without her permission or possession of the flat legally. You are on the wrong side of the law regardless of how she has treated the property. She may return to the property, redecorate and return it to you in the state she found it but if not, you can make reasonable deductions from her deposit.

I know you won't want to hear any of the above but to be frank, you need some proper legal advice before you continue.

HoHoHoNoYouDont Thu 10-Jan-13 20:51:30

Call the Housing Benefit dept to see if she has made an application for benefit at another address. If she has then that's proof she's abandoned the property.

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 20:53:34

Just to add when I moved into a property on housing benefit after running from exh they took four months to process it so it is possible she is still waiting.

No excuse for the damage but you have broken the law by letting yourself in I am afraid unless the recorded delivery letter gave 24 hours notice of a property inspection.

You would also be illegal if you change the locks tommorow and she can call the police over that.

fairlytiredallthetime Thu 10-Jan-13 20:55:06

If she has abandoned the flat and you can get access, then apply to the council for a Class C Exemption while the flat is being redecorated - it will need to be empty and substantially unfurnished for you to get this exemption. It will give you six months exemption from council tax so plenty of time to get it refurbished and a new tenant in place.

CloudsAndTrees Thu 10-Jan-13 20:56:09

This woman hasn't paid her rent since October! It's unbelievable that OP could be in a position where she is doing something wrong for taking back her own property.

FredFredGeorge Thu 10-Jan-13 21:06:13

CloudsAndTrees But the law is on the side of the otherwise weaker individual against the business of the landlord. Protecting the right to a home is seen as more important the risk of a landlord losing a bit of cash. As you can see from the original post and subsequent comments landlords have all sorts of strange ideas about invading tennants homes, so that protection is almost certainly warranted.

iago Thu 10-Jan-13 21:21:37

Gosh! Thanks for all the replies so far. I am reading and heeding all the advice.I forgot to say that we left a note when we went round yesterday to say we would be back today. Though as she wouldn't have seen it. I also sent a text message. We will contact the Council tomorrow. We HAVE to change the locks - I will text her to warn her - because we have no idea who has access to the place. What if spurned lover came back and started a fire next time? We think he trashed the flat after she went wherever because he left her a note so he at least must have a key. Also X kept the place in excellent order.
However, I have persuaded OH that we must not throw any of her things away.
We may have broken the law by entering the flat, but we were genuinely worried that something nasty could have happened to X and her daughter and there were 2 cats last time we visited. We were relieved to find no bodies.
I'm sure X has not gone on holiday as she has a school aged daughter and never kept her off school.

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 21:35:15

I think she probably has gone although why would she leave all the child's stuff? but you still have to do things right.

Its really is illegal to change the locks no matter who you think may have access.

"If you are a residential occupier of the premises, i.e you live there, then it is a criminal offence for any person to unlawfully deprive you, as a residential occupier, of your occupation of the premises. Changing the locks would be an unlawful eviction unless you have been officially evicted from the property by court order.

An unlawfully evicted tenant may use reasonable force to regain entry to their own home (e.g. breaking a window).

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 21:36:29

Thats from Ask the Police UK website.

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 21:39:03

Which is the run by the following

"The Police National Legal Database (PNLD) is managed by the Association of Chief Police Officers but is under the day to day control of West Yorkshire Police."

I think you should take either a section 21 two months notice or a section 8 notice (if your willing to follow the court path) over there tommorow and post it through the door.

Do things properly.

If she has not gone and she gets back late at night to find locks changed and she cannot get hold of you you will be in very hot water.

Jengnr Thu 10-Jan-13 21:45:18

Have you phoned the police? Out of concern for her welfare I mean rather than for your flat.

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 21:45:22

From Government website

What is illegal eviction?
Illegal eviction is where a landlord (or someone acting on his/her behalf) excludes a tenant form part or all of their home or does something designed to cause the tenant to leave the property.

If your landlord wants you to leave and you do not have anywhere to go or you do not wish to leave then you usually have the right to remain until a court order is issued. If the landlord does not take the necessary legal action and does one of the following then he/she will be unlawfully evicting you:

■Changing the locks so that you cannot enter the property
■Removing you and/or your belongings from the property
■Excludes you from any part of your home

If your landlord (or anyone acting on his/her behalf) attempts to unlawfully evict you should call the Police and contact the Housing Options Centre. If this incident happens outside office hours you should contact our emergency out of hours number 020 8552 9587.

When the Police arrive they should:

■Take details
■Advise the landlord of the correct way of gaining possession of the property
■Warn the perpetrator that they might be committing a criminal offence, which will be reported
■Ask everyone to put things back as they were
In certain cases the police can arrest the person trying to gain entry to the property against your wishes. You should obtain a crime reference number and the numbers of the officers that attended the incident.

You may also claim compensation towards any costs of inconvenience.

Aspiemum2 Thu 10-Jan-13 21:46:39

What a horrible situation to be in. I can absolutely understand you wanting to sort this straight away. I think though that you should heed the advice given, the last thing you want is to get yourself in murky waters over this.
It is not something that I am clued up on and I'm pretty disgusted that your property can be left in such a state and yet your hands seem to be tied. You must be furious, but I again urge you to be cautious. A person who can do this damage to a property would probably think nothing of using the law against you just to put the boot in.

Aspiemum2 Thu 10-Jan-13 21:47:52

As an added thought - are you sure she's not in hiding from the person who left the note?

happynewmind Thu 10-Jan-13 21:48:31

I agree with Jengnr.

Did you do a property check during that three years and all was ok?

If she has paid none stop fine for three years and property has been fine I would be worried something had happened.

PartyFops Thu 10-Jan-13 21:48:48

If a tenancy agreement has not been legally ended or surrendered, but the tenant appears to have left the property during the tenancy, then this is known as abandonment.

Tenants sometimes choose to leave a property for long periods of time, but if they are planning to be away from the property for more than two weeks they are required to inform the landlord. This is often stated in the tenancy agreement, so the tenant would be breaking the terms of the tenancy, if they failed to inform the landlord they were going to be away from the property.

A landlord must be sure that the tenant has surrendered the tenancy by abandonment, before re-letting the property or changing the locks. The best way to be sure of this is by contacting the tenant and ensuring they confirm they are abandoning the tenancy by a written notice to quit. Retuning the keys is a clear indication from the tenant that they are agreeing to surrender the tenancy. If a tenant has not ended the agreement, the landlord is responsible to ensure their belongings are looked after if they have been left in the property.

If the landlord is unsure as to whether the tenant is living in the property or not, it is best to end the tenancy by applying for a possession order, rather than run the risk of having unlawful eviction proceedings put forward. A tenant may return and press charges of illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If the landlord has re-let or repossessed the property they also run the risk of being charged with breaching the terms of the tenancy agreement. The safest option, for landlords when abandonment seems to have occurred is to get a possession order from the courts, especially if a tenant has left their belongings or furniture in the property.

A landlord must make the necessary checks to confirm that the tenant has abandoned the tenancy. It could be that a tenant is on a long holiday, is in hospital or undergoing a short prison sentence.

In order to gain evidence as to whether or not abandonment has occurred the landlord can make enquires by:

Speaking to the neighbours.
Checking to see if the keys have been returned.
Finding out if the rent is still being paid.
Contacting a relative for information on the tenant’s whereabouts.
Finding out if belongings or furniture have been removed from the property.
If after trying to gather information on the tenants whereabouts and whether or not abandonment has occurred, it appears the property has been abandoned then the landlord is only able to enter the property under certain circumstances. If the landlord feels that the property is in an insecure condition, or that electrical or gas appliances could cause damage or danger to the property then they may have a case for entering the property. If this is the case, it is advisable to have an independent witness who is happy to confirm the condition of the property and the situation in writing. The landlord is also required to place a notice on the door of the property if the locks have been changed (for security reasons) advising the tenant where they can contact the landlord to gain a new key to the property.

Illegally evicting a tenant is a criminal offence, so landlords need to be careful before repossessing or re-letting a property and take the necessary precautions.

PartyFops Thu 10-Jan-13 21:49:50

Have you asked the neighbours? If you do decide to change the locks, you must leave a note on the door for her to contact you to let her back in again.

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!!!!!

holidaysarenice Fri 11-Jan-13 00:54:14

I had a tenant who flitted and claimed for another property, I raised it with hb and they paid for the extra two weeks until I got a tenant. I don't know how long they wud do it for but its a good idea to ring them.

holidaysarenice Fri 11-Jan-13 00:57:47

If the electric is cut off I wud say she has abandoned. I'm pretty sure if u ring the electric company they will no she has flitted. Ditto hb, ring and they will tell you if she informed them that she has moved out. Then its all yours.

Can you say that you knocked on the door, no reply and you heard running water in the flat?
And as you hadn't heard from your Tenant for X number of weeks, you were suspicious at the running water . And if there are people below the flat, you were concerned about the risk of water damage.
So you had to enter the flat to check (would that count as an emergency) ?

And surely by moving someone else in, has she broken the terms of her tenancy?

iago Fri 11-Jan-13 01:58:49

Well, I am not used to such traffic on my usual site, and thanks to all who replied. It's really tricky because we have been so hands off - ironic we have been advised that we could be harassing our tenant! - yet round in a flash when the oven/shower/washing machine broke - and now I feel awful because we weren't on the case in Oct/Nov when she failed to pay her share of the rent a few times. Have had a horrible night because OH has rejected every piece of advice here on grounds that yes, that is the law, but common sense would prevail even in a court of law and it wouldn't get that far anyway... Plus worrying about X. I feel drained.
When we 'took on' X, we were told that this was her last chance: she had to make it as she wouldn't be re-homed again by the local authority. We picked her and her little girl up from a refuge - not in her home city - with a few bin bags of belongings and worked with her, gradually less and less as her confidence grew.
She made the flat her own and was so proud of it and the way her life was going, especially when she got her job and was able to contribute to her rent. I think she was fine on her own, but must have got a bloke who moved in. Obviously we didn't know about him because it would have gone against her tenancy agreement and would have affected her HB. Then there seems to have been a parting of the ways.
Didn't really think she had been murdered in the flat - although a woman was in the flat above a few years back - but felt concerned in the same way as if it had been my son or daughter (in which case I would definitely have been trawling through their stuff.) Very, very uneasy, but nothing definite the Police would have been interested in.
What I have decided to do is: put another letter through her door advising we are carrying out a property inspection in 24 hours. Then we will change the locks - really cannot run the risk of an unknown person/persons having access - with a note on the door and having advised the neighbours - and a notice to quit letter on the mat. Will also talk to the Housing Dept.
Have gone through the terms of the tenancy agreement and two months' notice is fine. Should have done it in Nov, but we kept hoping that X or HB would be in contact.
So sad that X had 'made it' and now will be back to such an uncertain future - I doubt that the new bloke is a catch.
PS The reason we didn't talk to the neighbours was that we thought they might gossip and make X's life difficult.
Thanks for reading. This post has been catharctic for me. (Still awake and fretting at 2am)

OldLadyKnowsNothing Fri 11-Jan-13 02:07:19

Sorry you're feeling so bad, OP, and from my point of view you've been a lovely LL. Sorry again it's all gone to shit. sad

tinkletinklestar Fri 11-Jan-13 04:35:25

I would still be letting the police know she is missing before she comes up on the 6pm news and you've done nothing.

MrsHoarder Fri 11-Jan-13 05:34:28

Despite being very strongly for tenants' rights, I feel for you op. If you had been a cold hearted type you could have got the flat back by now (as the first missed payment was 12 Weeks ago.

Suggest you go to a lawyer in the morning and get some proper advice, the law may be generally reasonable, but sometimes it isn't. And get a notice up and carry your mobile 24/7 if you do change the lock.

janey68 Fri 11-Jan-13 07:06:01

You sound like an exemplary LL.
Interesting that a few posters have simply highlighted their own prejudice against LL by ranting emotionally about 'throwing people out of their homes'.

I do agree that you need to follow things by the book here- not changing locks etc. it must be very frustrating but it's in your interests in the long run.

However I agree with the poster who said this is tantamount to theft and vandalism. Where else could you effectively steal money from someone else and trash their property and get away with it?

flow4 Fri 11-Jan-13 07:24:17

I've just spotted that you picked your tenant up from a refuge when she began renting from you, iago - so she has certainly been in a past relationship with a dangerously abusive person. You say the flat has been violently trashed - doors off hinges is not just a mess - and you suspect this was by someone other than your tenant, because she has always kept it well. You say there was a note from a 'spurned lover'.

Please, please contact the police to report her missing. Tell them what you have told us. They will certainly be interested. It may be that she has fled to safety - I hope so. But there is a very real risk she and her little girl are in danger.

janey68 Fri 11-Jan-13 07:32:50

I think it would be wise to report this to the police now. Although the fact she has a young child in school presumably should have highlighted this earlier if she has been missing since October. Surely a school would act if a young child suddenly stopped attending without reason?

flow4 Fri 11-Jan-13 07:47:03

Yes, probably, though there are too many 'unknowns'... She may have stopped paying rent in Oct, but not left until more recently; she may have notified the school of a move; there may actually be a safeguarding investigation already in progress and they may be glad to hear from the landlord; the child may be still attending school, but living elsewhere with her mother and in contact with a dangerous man... The fact that the OP doesn't know what has happened, and yet knows the tenant has been in danger in the past, is exactly why the police must be informed.

iago, you said you thought of her like 'my son or daughter'... If your DD or DS simply disappeared off the face of the earth, you wouldn't hesitate to contact the police, would you? Please do it, just in case.

msrisotto Fri 11-Jan-13 07:58:40

Have you tried calling her? All this texting at this stage is a bit weird. If she won't pick up the phone and doesn't respond to your letters then she is uncontactable and you are in a stronger position. I don't think you illegally entered the property as you gave her notice via text?

iago Fri 11-Jan-13 07:59:39

Thank you for the last comments. I will talk to the Police and see what they say. I know what school the daughter started at but it was a long way from the flat and X was hoping to move her. The school would talk to the Police. I don't think she's been gone from the flat since October - but the police could work it out from the dates of the unopened post. I've hesitated involving the police because of our previous contact when they broke into her flat (the wrong address!) and bullied her.
I should add that we only live 5 minutes' away from the flat and she has a mobile number she can contact us on 24/7.

bamboobutton Fri 11-Jan-13 08:46:56

just want to point out that 24 hours notice does not equal permission to enter. you still need her permission to enter unless you have carried out all the legal stuff and have possession of the property. no response from her doesn't imply permission, if you change the locks you will still be carrying out an illegal eviction.

your dh is being a dick and his pigheaded behaviour will get you in trouble.

msrisotto Fri 11-Jan-13 09:01:38

Have you tried calling her?

It doesn't seem beyond the realms of possibility that her exP - from whom she was hiding in the first refuge has perhaps found her, manipulated her into letting him stay there, and then she has grabbed her daughter and fled to another refuge. Perhaps leaving her phone, paperwork and anything else behind?

I went to a refuge back in 2002 with my DS and the clothes on my back. Nothing else. (left everything, including the home I partly owned, behind)

Please contact the police today, as well as a solicitor.

OP, sounds like a nightmare, hope you get it sorted soon?? I take it you didnt use an agency??

This is the exact reason I do use an an agency and NEVER get to know my tenants, esp on friendly terms. I did this the very first tenant I ever had, and it ended badly. Get too familiar and you will no longer be an authoritive figure and they will just end up taking liberties.

Next time, unless you know the law really well, use a decent agency and it will save you a massive headache.

Good luck and hope you get it sorted.

Twattybollocks Fri 11-Jan-13 09:30:09

I feel for you op, and I feel for your tenant. Some thing is definately amiss.
I would call the police with your concerns, they can contact ss and women's refuge on your behalf to find out what is going on. Women's refuge will not be able to tell you whether she is with them I don't think, but may be able to disclose to the police. Given the note and the state of the flat there is every reason to suspect she has fled rather than just abandoned.
Regards the lock changing, seek legal advice, and issue the notices as outlined above. You can stop the eviction if it turns out that she hasn't abandoned and you still want her as a tenant.
I am a ll myself and thankfully have never been in this situation. I do respect my tenants rights to peaceful enjoyment of their home, but at the same time I can't afford to have serious damage to my property (whilst I accept that it is their home, it is still my property and should they decide to trash the place, the deposit really doesn't cover making it good)

queenofthepirates Fri 11-Jan-13 10:37:24

When this is all resolved (swiftly for you I hope), I'd chalk this down to a learning experience. Act quickly when rent is unpaid and don't enter the property unless invited! I'd definitely suggest reading up on the legal side of being a landlord for next time.

Hope the girl's alright. xx

I hope the tenant is ok (have you called the police yet?).

I don't think you sound awful - you did get it wrong by going in and certainly it would have been wrong to throw away her belongings, but you didn't know that. I do think you should have known, TBH - if you are a landlord it should be your responsibility to know what the law is.

But I do feel very bad for you as this must be horribly worrying, not knowing if she's ok and also wondering how the heck you're going to sort out the flat. I hope you do get it sorted out soon. I'm a tenant and I get furious about bad LL, but reading this thread it seems pretty clear to me your heart is in the right place.

JudgeJodie Fri 25-Jan-13 21:46:28

How are you getting on op? Any update?

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