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36% of landlords in the UK have had a property abandoned by a tenant before the end of the rental agreement

 Well Behaved Tenant Enjoys Amicable Relationship With Diligent Landlord isn’t the type of story that makes it onto a hard news website or even a local paper.

Property management specialist Denhan Guaranteed Rentsays that although most landlords enjoy handsome yields of around 5%, horror stories are not uncommon.

That is why the stories that fill the media tend about buy-to-let investors lie at either of the two extremes –unscrupulous landlords letting substandard properties for exorbitant rents, or tenants from hell reducing perfectly good rental homes to a state of squalor and disrepair.

The truth of the matter is that most tenant/landlord relationships are in fact perfectly amicable, a situation which looks set to become ever more the norm as greater numbers of people – including families with children – opt for the private rented sector as a long-term solution to their housing needs.

There is, however, one particular problem which seems to be causing difficulties for an unusually large number of landlords. East London estate agent Peach Propertiessays it’s rental properties being deserted by their occupants before the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement has come to an end.

According to a survey, 36% of landlords in the UK have had a property abandoned by a tenant. In the vast majority of cases when a tenant leaves before the end of a tenancy, and does so without informing the landlord, it is because of outstanding rent arrears.

The difficulty for the landlord is compounded by the fact that the tenant in question is legally entitled to return at any time and start living in the property again, warns Stoke Newington estate and letting agentM&M Property. The only way to prevent this is to regain legal possession of the property, a process which can take many months to complete.  One of the chief difficulties involved in the process of dealing with an abandoned property is the fact that it is a criminal offence to end a tenancy without serving an abandonment notice. Since this takes the form of a notice pinned to the door declaring that the property is empty, it runs the risk of being seen as an open invitation to squatters.

Whilst a third of all landlords have experienced this problem, there are some marked regional variations. Of landlords based in the North of England, 51% have had property abandoned whilst, in the North East, this figure climbs to a shocking 58%. In London, on the other hand, only 33% of landlords have experienced the problem, a figure which is still high but which, perhaps, reflects the fact that finding another in that part of the country is far from easy.

The findings of the survey have been released to coincide with the passing of the latest Housing and Planning Act, which contains measures designed to deal with the problems caused by abandoned properties. Under the abandonment clause contained in the act, landlords will be able to take possession of a property, without recourse to court action, providing two criteria have been met; that the tenant has eight weeks rent arrears and has failed to respond to three written notices.

To prevent this being seen as an act which tilts the playing field too far in the direction of landlords, the same act also contains proposals intended to deal with bad landlords. Under these proposals, councils which prosecute landlords will be allowed to keep the proceeds of any fines imposed, something which will allow them to pursue longer term strategies, and will also be able to implement stiffer civil penalties and banning orders on landlords who have been found to break the law.