It could happen to anyone, and frequently does: one makes plans to move, only to see these plans fall through at the last minute.
This is, of course, only one reason that your tenant might have given notice and then changed their mind. I wrote a blog on my own website last month about why a tenant might refuse to leave at the end of their tenancy, and felt that this potentially sticky subject merited further examination.
Tenants tend to give notice as soon as they think they may have to move, be it for work, financial, personal or any other reason. This is because they generally need their deposits back in order to fund the cost of moving (and often another deposit), and also because they wish to avoid paying more rent than they need to.
The upshot of this haste is that sometimes their plans aren’t set in stone, and things don’t work out quite as planned – leaving them back in a property for which they’ve served notice, and with nowhere else to go.
As the landlord in this situation, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
1. How did the tenant give notice?
A lot of tenants will drop their landlord a text or leave a voicemail to say that they wish to leave, particularly if you don’t have a close relationship with them or they haven’t lived in your property for very long. This is all well and good – provided the tenancy agreement allows it.
If the AST agreement states that notice must be given in writing, then it must be given in writing; and however the tenant advises you that they want to leave, you must confirm in writing and make sure the tenant received that confirmation. Send it by recorded delivery, or better yet, deliver it by hand (with the required 24 hours’ notice, of course).
If the notice is proven to be invalid, then whether or not you ought to seek possession is a moot point – you can’t, until you serve notice yourself. Bear in mind the following when issuing a Section 21 notice seeking possession:
- A written tenancy agreement must have been signed
- Any deposit levied must have been protected and the tenants given the relevant information about the deposit protection scheme
- If the property is an HMO (house in multiple occupancy) you must have a valid HMO license
- The notice served must be fully correct, with no drafting errors
2. Do you want the tenant to leave?
If the tenant was a problem tenant who frequently ran up rental arrears, caused damage to the property or attracted complaints about antisocial behaviour, you might want to be rid of them anyway – in which case, they may have done you a favour.
On the other hand, you might have plans for the property. Perhaps you wish to do some renovation work, or new tenants might have expressed an interest.
The latter situation is difficult. Whatever decision you make, it will likely cause some distress. Additionally, if you’ve already signed up new tenants who can’t move in because the old tenant won’t move out, you may be liable for breach of contract (and have to pay for temporary accommodation until they can move in) – in this case, the decision will have been made for you.
If you do have options, be as clinical and detached as possible in weighing them up. Nine times out of ten, keeping a decent tenant rather than seeking to evict them and replacing them with ‘an unknown’ will be simpler, but remain objective. Does your current tenant owe rent? Have there been issues in the past? Are there other problems with the tenancy such as unpaid utilities or needed repairs?
You need to arrive at a decision quickly, so that whichever tenant gets the bad news can make alternate provisions as soon as possible. After all, tenant number two might already have given notice to their own landlord, and… well. I’m sure you get the idea.
TurnKey Landlords are a specialist buy to let mortgage broker who search the marketplace for the best buy to let mortgages. They also offer a dedicated landlords’ advice and guidance service.
By Brian Godfrey