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Remus2004, Barrister
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 71055
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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My tenants have vacated the property, the AST agreement has

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My tenants have vacated the property, the AST agreement has not yet been voided as the tenant are claiming unreasonable compensation. Can I legally change the locks?
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What is the evidence that they have vacated?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
They have informed me verbally and my agent has been round to the property.
What has the agent seen?
Why does he believe they have gone?
As opposed to just not being there when he attended.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Not sure but I also have an email which states that I need to pay a portion of all bills for the for period from 4Sept - 10Oct, which is the day they claim to have vacated. They are also insisting on payment of the deposit in advance before DPS releases funds. If I don't agree they intend taking me to court for solicitors fees, I have yet to see any letter, doctors fee as claims the property has caused illness.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The flat was completely empty
All of their property had been removed?
Have they returned the keys?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
All property has been removed.Keys have not been returned.
Thanks for that
You have two options really and neither of them are really very fair. Unfortunately the law is very heavily biased in favour of tenants basically because of the activities of a notorious landlord in the 1960s. 

The first option is obviously just to seek an accelerated possession order. You will need to serve a S21 notice and let it expire though.

The second though is this. It does have risks so consider carefully. Where a property has been abandoned there is a legal doctrine of implied surrender. Quite a lot of agents and some solicitors seem to think this is a simple way to bipass a possession order but I have to say that I disagree.

To serve a notice of abandonment you need to do this to the letter. Print up a notice that says something like 'We believe that you are no longer in permanent residence at this address. If that is not the case then please make contact with me on X number at your earliest convenience and, in any event within 7 days.' Make sure it is dated prominently. Laminate the notice. Put the laminated notice on the front door of the property. Take photographs of it there and of yourself putting it on there.

There are some agents who take the view that within 7 days and no contact you can just get back in. Quite a lot of agents think 24 hours is sufficient.

Personally I think you need to do more work than that to protect yourself. 

Implied surrender is all very well but its the actions of the tenant that creates implied surrender not the actions of the landlord. I have to say that I'm not sure that an absence from the property alone is sufficient to prove surrender. I have been away from my house for more than 7 days at a time over Christmas, Easter, holidays, cases where I had to stay elsewhere. It doesn't mean I'm not living here.

Thats not to say that you shouldn't do this but just that you need also to look for more evidence. Genuine abandonment is usually signed by the tenant by the removal of his possessions, leaving the keys behind etc. Potentially leaving the house insecure. If you have evidence of that then take photographs and you can repossess without an order.

There is an argument that if there are genuine signs of abandonment you can repossess without an abandonment notice but I wouldn't suggest the risk. As you know unlawful eviction is a criminal offence and I am primarily a criminal lawyer. There are many problems in criminal law but an abundance of evidence to prove that an offence has not been committed is not one we should cry about.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information
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