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Tenant evacuating house without informing landlord and owing rent

(30 Posts)
dreamsicle Wed 03-Apr-13 09:25:28

Can anyone give me advice on this house issue if you have been in similar situation please?

Our tenant stopped paying her rent a few months ago. Initially we failed to notice as she had previously been fairly regular with her payments and we are currently living abroad (i.e. our bank account is not actively checked every month) and we have been busy with our newborn baby too recently. We only found out when the bank statement showed the mortgage payments bouncing as there was not enough deposits recently into the account. We tried to call our tenant and there was no reply on her mobile (the person who replied did not answer the phone but texted us saying she was someone else and only got this number recently...really?). We then emailed the tenant and she responded straight away with a sorry email saying she left the house in December(!) and she posted us the keys with he excuse of change in family circumstances. She said she lost our phone numbers and other contact details which we made every effort to provide her with in the past. She had been there for the last 4 years yet she did not feel obliged to give us any information on her moving out - that's another thread on its own though.

We have not received the keys as we are currently not living in the country so the postal address we have for UK is empty. She knew that too, but made no effort to post the keys to the address we gave her for abroad. The keys are not the issue though as we have copies that work on current locks.

We have since inquired at our bank and it seems that she failed to pay the last 5 months worth of rent plus she had missed a few payments over the last 2 years, very irregularly so we again hadn't noticed- total of 10 month rent she owes us for a 3 bedroom house. We had a private contract with her which was renewed in August for a year and is still valid. We did not have a management agent in place hence why the problems.

We (stupidly) do not have any details now on where she lives or anyone she knows/works with/gave a reference for her etc. We have not replied to her email yet (what do we say to her?) but it is unlikely that she will volunteer her current contact details. If we had her details then we would take it as far as instructing a solicitor to act on our behalf to claim the money we are owed.

However we are thinking that some agencies could have up to date data on the tenant- her children I think attended the local school for example, or the council tax may well know her new address. Does anyone have any idea as to how we can proceed from here and how the data protection act works in these situations in the ex-tenant's favour?

KobayashiMaru Wed 03-Apr-13 09:30:36

nobody is going to give you her details. And you aren't going to get very far trying to get back rent when it has all been so badly managed.

also you should get this moved to legal, property or money, its not an aibu.

HollyBerryBush Wed 03-Apr-13 09:30:45

No school will give you her details, nor public employee for that matter.

EasilyBored Wed 03-Apr-13 09:34:04

So you didn't bother to check if she had paid her rent, going back a couple of years? You missed her not paying, don't have any contact details for her, didn't use an agent at all? I think you don't really have a hope in hell of ever getting that money back.

CajaDeLaMemoria Wed 03-Apr-13 09:36:48

No, no one will give you her details. It'd be a massive breach of data protection.

Do you have a deposit for her? Is it held in a scheme?

Was the UK address that she returned the keys too the notice address given in the contract?

You might find it very difficult to take her to court while you are not in the UK, and it's quite possible that if she's having money problems she won't be able to afford 10 months rent.

Have you got anyone who can check the house over for damages?

ISeeSmallPeople Wed 03-Apr-13 09:37:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

QuintEggSensuality Wed 03-Apr-13 09:39:16

I think you need to instruct a solicitor. They would be in a better position to find her than you. Third parties such as council tax and school would not be obliged to inform you of her address due to privacy rules, but a solicitor can apply for disclosure.

Also she has not given a valid notice, so is liable to pay rent until after her notice period.

LazyMonkeyButler Wed 03-Apr-13 09:41:59

You should have been checking your bank account throughout the duration of the tenancy. How difficult is it tAo check just once a month? Then you could have dealt with missing/late payments as they arose and not be in this situation.

The only way I can think of to reclaim your money is to use a tracing agency to find her & then either a debt collector or Court action from there.

Is it causing you problems with your own mortgage or do you have funds to make the bounced payments?

Fenton Wed 03-Apr-13 09:43:01

I agree with others, you don't have a hope to get her details or the money I'm afraid. You're going to need to put this one down to the price of a lesson learnt, and put in place at least a skeleton management to avoid this in future.

Costypop Wed 03-Apr-13 09:43:19

Think of it this way it's better she left on her own accord instead of just waiting to be evicted, that would have cost you a lot more money

TheNebulousBoojum Wed 03-Apr-13 09:44:26

I agree that you need legal advice and to pursue it through the courts.
You're now living through the consequences of what happens when you do things in an informal, disorganised and haphazard manner.

TheNebulousBoojum Wed 03-Apr-13 09:45:04

I hope she's left the house in a reasonable condition, can anyone check for you?

WeAreEternal Wed 03-Apr-13 09:52:50

I have had this happen to us (tenant left with no warning, owing two months rent and left no forwarding address or any contact details.)

I was able up contact the tenant via Facebook.
I sent her an email asking if she had moved out, she said yes and claimed she had sent us a letter giving us notice.
I knew she was going to be trouble as we had caught her out on previous lies before so I knew to tread carefully.

I told her that I didn't have a forwarding address so wouldn't be able to send her the cheque for her deposit. She asked me to do a bank transfer at first but I explained that as I don't keep hold of the deposit, it is held in a deposit scheme, I request it from them and they send me a cheque to give to the tenant.
After that she was more than happy to give me her address, and I was able to take her to the small claims court once I had her address.

Do you have a deposit from your tenant?
If not you could always claim to have found a valuable item in the property or have some post, I have even told a tenant that I had accidentally opened a letter address to him and it had a cheque inside that I wanted to return to him.

CajaDeLaMemoria Wed 03-Apr-13 10:06:40

Unless I'm missing something important, there is absolutely no way that a solicitor would have a legal reason to apply for disclosure of the tenants' new address. Leaving a house with rent unpaid is not serious enough for that.

Does she have a deposit in a UK scheme? That's really important.

LIZS Wed 03-Apr-13 10:23:14

You also need to check who is anyone has been paying utilities , council tax etc because you may find yourselves with a stack of post at the address including Summonses. I'd suggest you email her about coming to a mutual arrangement but it is a civil matter. She may well have moved in with family or a new partner and is hoping to just forget about any arrears and outstanding debts. How did she post the keys to you without your address or are they sat on the mat? At very least you should arrange to meet her at the address as presumably you have no other way of knowing what the state of play is. There are ways of legally tracking someone down but you won't get Council or school to help.

bevelino Wed 03-Apr-13 10:23:51

OP you are entitled to pursue your tenant for unpaid rent and because you are based abroad it will make sense for you to instruct a solicitor. In this day and age most people can be located and a solicitor will be able to arrange legitimate searches. However pursuing your tenant will be expensive and you need to consider the likelihood of recovering any money from her before taking any steps.

QuintEggSensuality Wed 03-Apr-13 10:24:36

"Leaving a house with rent unpaid is not serious enough for that." Could be, my tenant did considerable damage to the house, and stole all the furniture, etc. It was a fully furnished let.

OP would be wise to get herself to the UK to check on her property.

I am also thinking that it is worth going to the property where the key has been posted. If this is the address mentioned in the contract, and the tenant has given proper legal notice to that address, I wonder if there is much you can do. You need to see both the state of the house, and any notice given, in order to know how to proceed.

CajaDeLaMemoria Wed 03-Apr-13 10:40:21

Quint - I did say unless I'm missing something...if things have been stolen or damaged, the situation changes, but the OP hasn't responded to say whether the house has been checked, or if there is a deposit being held in a scheme.

I also agree on the issues with having a notice address that is not actually contactable. It's been a while since I've looked at contract law in relation to tenancies, but I'm fairly sure that a valid notice address is a legal requirement, and that could cause problems.

There is also issues with the council tax, if the tenant has stopped paying - if they paid December, you'll have 3 months unpaid, which is enough for a summons here. There will probably also be water and electric standing charges to pay.

I wonder if the tenant set up a change of address? The last letter I had from Royal Mail for mine clearly had both the old and new address on it.

QuintEggSensuality Wed 03-Apr-13 10:45:52

When my tenant abandoned the house she was in arrears with both council tax, gas and electricity. The utilities companies insisted on going by the latest reading she has provided, which was months earlier, so I was responsible for paying these bills. The council tax was different, as they accepted that the property had been empty, so was not liable for council tax after the point tenant had vacated.

We had an agency though. They discovered she had left. They then tried to get the HB paid directly to us for the months she was in arrears, but as she had already left they said they could not do it as we were not her current landlord. hmm

expatinscotland Wed 03-Apr-13 10:53:18

You have a snowball's chance in hell of ever seeing a penny from this former tenant.

SchroSawMargeryDaw Wed 03-Apr-13 10:59:01

If you didn't even bother to check your bank account once a month, did you keep up with other duties?

I think you have been lazy and have unfortunately missed this happening. I wonder if you would even be able to claim the money through small claims as you made no effort to get it over the years when she lived in the property.

Viviennemary Wed 03-Apr-13 11:04:29

Why did you not get a lettings agency to manage this. What happened if a repair was needed or other problem with the property. I don't have a lot of sympathy I'm afraid as you sound as if you have been very neglectful landlords.

ComposHat Wed 03-Apr-13 11:59:34

Hslf arsed landlord too lazy/greedy to manage the property properly gets stung by tenant.

Rough justice I'd say.

Lueji Wed 03-Apr-13 12:10:25

and that is why I have an agency managing my property.

Seriously, you didn't bother to take 5 min to check your bank account?

Do you even have a contract?

eggsandwich Wed 03-Apr-13 12:32:52

totally agree with what weareeternal has said, unfortunately some but not all tenants don't see paying their rent on time as important, as a landlord I've had some really good tenants, but from time to time even with the use of a letting agent who do a through search on them, and with employers references some bad tenants slip through the net so to speak, you do learn a weareeternal to play them at their own game, but you should always check your statements to make sure the rent is paid on time! remember your not a charity, seek legal advice.

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