When Renters Disappear: What To Do If A Tenant Abandons The Property
As a landlord, experiencing rental turnover is part of the job. Similarly, tenant abandonment is a less common scenario, but one landlords should prepare to encounter. In a changing world where fast moving and shifting priorities are the norm, people choose to move from cities or return to their hometowns. This trend as well as unstable employment increases the likelihood of tenant abandonment to happen.
Based on SPEEDHOME’s standard operating procedure, we have successfully recovered and relisted abandoned properties for landlords like you. Our aim is to minimise losses after the abandonment case. Most properties become available for re-rent within 46 days.
What do you need to know?
- You need to know what to do if a tenant abandons your rental property.
- You need to know what to do with the tenant’s personal belongings after abandonment.
What Does Tenant Abandonment Mean?
Simply put, it means a tenant left for an extended period of time without telling the landlord first. Usually the tenant left behind their belongings and stopped paying rent, which would be an indicator the landlord first notices.
Why would a tenant abandon the property in the first place?
There could be several different reasons including:
- A new job: The tenant could have relocated to a different area or city due to a new job opportunity or transfer.
- Financial difficulties: When a tenant can no longer afford rent, they will leave hoping to avoid any complications of an early termination and the rest of the amounts owed to the landlord.
- Medical emergencies: If the tenant is facing prolonged hospitalisation or dealing with serious health concerns, they may be compelled to abandon the property due to their inability to reside there or manage the rental responsibilities..
- Personal circumstances may also be the reason for a tenant’s disappearance. If the previously listed reasons don’t apply, changes in the tenant’s personal life may have driven them to completely abandon the rental property.
Depending on the terms of your agreement, you may have clauses in place to handle tenant abandonment. This includes any processes that will occur when a tenant runs away and what will happen to their belongings.
Some tenancy agreements states that if a tenant plans to leave a rental property for more than two weeks, they must let the landlord know. The landlord will be unaware of the vacancy until rental payments stop being made.
This is a risk to a landlord’s business since they will no longer receive timely rental payments, costing more time and money to move forward from the situation.
How To Find Out If A Property Has Been Abandoned
To avoid wrongful eviction claims, you need to make sure your property has actually been abandoned. Some tenants might not be aware of abandonment rules or forget to notify you. Observe the following signs to know whether or not your tenant has left temporarily, or if they’re gone for good.
1. Is the tenant still paying rent?
Then they’re probably just on vacation or an extended stay somewhere else. Contact the tenant to confirm what’s going on and let them know you might inspect the property every week just to make sure everything is okay and ensure it’s safe.
2. Call their emergency contacts
If you’re concerned about your tenant’s safety after their disappearance and they are uncontactable, reach out to their emergency contacts or guarantors. Inform them of the rules on the tenancy agreement and hopefully they will be able to talk to the tenant and get back to you on whether or not the tenant has completely moved out.
3. Are the utilities still on?
Depending on your access to utility bills, you may need to enter the property to check if the water or electricity has been shut off. Write a notice for the minimum amount of days prior to which the tenant must be informed. Once you do this, you may enter the property for inspection.
4. Ask the neighbours
The likelihood of Malaysian neighbours noticing something may be low, but it doesn’t hurt to try. This may give you the most straightforward answer if any of them have seen the tenant move out or return back to the property recently.
It’s Abandoned: What’s The Next Step?
There are several steps you have to take after identifying that the tenant has abandoned the property.
- Make sure you document your findings: Put together a list of the rent, when it was last paid, and when you tried to contact the tenant to resolve rent issues. If you contact the tenant’s emergency contacts or neighbours, be sure to record these conversations as proof.
- Lodge a police report. This is to declare that you want to check the unit prior to entering it, with reasonable proof for doing so and avoid being liable for trespassing.
- Enter the unit and investigate the premises yourself. Take note of any damages sustained by the tenant as well as any personal property that was left behind.
- Prepare the unit for relisting and hopefully you can get a new tenant to recoup your losses.
Can a landlord enter an abandoned property?
Your tenancy agreement should outline circumstances from which you are allowed to enter the premises, such as concerns of unit conditions, situations where the tenant is uncontactable, or you suspect any breach in contracts. It may require that you give notice to your tenant before you may enter, regardless of whether or not the tenant is present due to risks of trespassing.
You should also lodge a police report to declare entry to the rental property for the same reason.
What about the tenant’s belongings?
- Take inventory and itemise the tenant’s property: You can make a list of all of the tenant’s belongings left behind. Take pictures of every item as well.
- Store the tenant’s property: Hold the tenant’s abandoned property until the tenant can pick up their property or until the required time limit has passed.
- Send a letter to the tenant(s): Notify the tenants explaining to them how long they have to claim the property and who can claim the property. Make sure you specify the deadline, which can range from a week to 45 days. This includes the inventory list, charges for storing the property, where the property is stored, and what will happen if it remains unclaimed.
Recovering your rental property from a tenant who has abandoned it is essential to continuing your rental business successfully – you must take precautions to avoid any legal complications. Remember, including a tenant abandonment clause in the lease agreement will be a safeguard in case you ever find yourself in a tenant abandonment situation and always screen your tenants to protect yourself and your property from damages and inconvenient situations.
Can I recover the missing rental payments?
Losses of rental are usually covered by the deposit, which is forfeited to the landlord now that the tenant has run away.
For a landlord, one legal option you have is the recovery of damages which you can ask from the court. Damages here refers to compensation in monetary form.
Typically, the recoverable damages landlords can seek from the court includes unpaid rent, unpaid utility bills, damages to the property, unapproved alterations to the property, etc. These sought-after compensations aim to address the financial losses and expenses incurred by the landlord due to the tenant’s actions or negligence.
With SPEEDHOME, missing rental payments from tenant abandonment can be claimed through our Landlord Rental Protection Plan for up to two months. We also provide on-ground services with homerunners who can check and investigate your unit for you, as well as a robust eviction support system. Our standard procedure ensures that we catch tenant abandonment cases early and ease the process for the landlords under our care.