If your tenant does a runner, take immediate action to secure your property and try to locate them. To prevent further losses, follow legal procedures to terminate the lease and recover any unpaid rent or damages.
As a landlord, one of your biggest concerns is tenant abandonment, also known as doing a runner. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for tenants to suddenly leave a property without giving any notice, sometimes leaving rent unpaid or causing damage to the property.
This can be worrying and stressful for any landlord, but it’s important to know your rights and act quickly to minimize the damage.
We’ll explore what to do if your tenant does a runner, including steps you can take to protect your property, legal options available to you, and how to recover any unpaid rent or damages.
Understanding Tenant Abandonment
Being a landlord or property manager requires significant effort, particularly in ensuring tenants are satisfied and compliant with their agreements.
However, there may come a time when a tenant unexpectedly leaves without notifying you or fulfilling their obligations.
This event is known as tenant abandonment, and it can cause problems for landlords.
What Is Tenant Abandonment?
Tenant abandonment is when a tenant leaves the rental unit without providing any notice, without paying rent, or without fulfilling all their obligations.
In other words, it occurs when a tenant vacates the property without any plan to return.
The absence could be temporary or permanent, and it could have a significant impact on the landlord’s income and property.
How Do You Know If Your Tenant Has Abandoned The Property?
As a landlord, you may suspect that a tenant has abandoned the property if the following signs are present:
- The tenant has left the property for an extended period, without notification or communication.
- The tenant has not paid rent, and the payment is long overdue.
- The tenant has removed all their valuables, furniture, and other possessions.
- The utilities, gas, or electricity meter readings show no activity for a long time.
- The neighbours have noticed no activity or movement on the property.
- The tenant has not responded to your emails, phone calls, or letters.
Moreover, if a tenant has abandoned rental property, they might have left behind personal belongings, a pet, or a terminated lease.
These situations can lead to legal issues, particularly if there is no proper documentation or a lack of details about the tenant’s whereabouts.
Legal Considerations Of Tenant Abandonment
When a tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord should take the following legal considerations seriously:
A landlord must take measures to mitigate the financial damage. This step includes re-renting the property or attempting to release it.
In most states, landlords must store any belongings left behind by the tenant.
Tenants have a right to get their possessions back, and if this is not done, it could lead to legal action against the landlord.
When a tenant abandons the property, the landlord needs to serve them with notice of lease termination.
This process requires proper documentation, which includes the original lease, evidence of tenant abandonment, and the notice of termination.
A tenant who leaves the property before fulfilling their financial obligations can be held responsible for unpaid rent, property damage, and other expenses incurred by the landlord.
Landlords can take legal action against such tenants in court in most jurisdictions.
Understanding tenant abandonment is critical for landlords to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Identifying tenant abandonment, following lease termination procedures, and mitigating financial damage are some legal considerations that must be taken seriously.
Steps To Take When Dealing With Tenant Abandonment
Notify The Tenant And Document Everything
The first step you should take when dealing with tenant abandonment is to notify the tenant.
You can do this by sending a written notice to the tenant’s last known address, either through the post or email.
Make sure to document all communication with the tenant. Keep copies of all written notices and emails, as well as notes on any phone conversations.
This documentation can be important evidence if legal action is necessary.
Secure The Property
Once the tenant has abandoned the property, it’s important to secure it to prevent damage or theft.
Change the locks on all doors and windows, and make sure any other access points are secure (e.g. garage doors, and basement windows).
If the utilities are still on, make sure to switch them off to prevent additional expenses.
You should also consider boarding up windows or installing security cameras to deter potential intruders.
Evaluate The Tenant’S Property And Pursue Legal Options For Compensation
After securing the property, it’s important to evaluate the tenant’s personal property left behind. You should document any items left in the unit and store them in a safe location.
In some cases, you may be legally required to store the property for a certain period or dispose of it in a certain way.
Consult with local laws and regulations to ensure you’re following the correct procedures.
If the tenant owes you money for rent or damages, you may need to pursue legal options for compensation.
This may include filing a small claims court lawsuit or hiring a collections agency.
Consensual Termination Agreements
In some cases, a tenant may leave the property with no intention of returning but is willing to work with you to terminate the lease on mutual terms.
In this scenario, you can enter a consensual termination agreement with the tenant.
Make sure to document the terms of the agreement in writing and have both parties sign it. This can help protect you from any future claims by the tenant.
Frequently Asked Questions For What To Do If Your Tenant Does A Runner
What Should I Do If My Tenant Disappears Without Paying Rent?
If your tenant disappears without paying rent, try to contact them first. If they are unreachable, send a written notice of default and start eviction proceedings.
Can I Keep The Tenant’S Security Deposit If They Do A Runner?
You can use a tenant’s security deposit to cover unpaid rent, damages, or other outstanding charges. Make sure to follow local laws regarding security deposits.
How Can I Avoid Tenants Doing A Runner In The First Place?
To avoid tenants doing a runner, thoroughly screen potential tenants before renting to them. Set clear expectations and requirements in the lease agreement and keep communication open.
What Legal Action Can I Take If My Tenant Does A Runner?
If your tenant does a runner, you can take legal action against them. This may include filing a lawsuit to recover unpaid rent or damages, or reporting them to the credit bureau. Consult a legal professional for specific advice.
When your tenant unexpectedly disappears, leaving you with a vacant property and unpaid rent, it can be frustrating and worrisome.
However, there are steps you can take to protect your interests and minimize the financial impact.
By promptly reporting the situation to the authorities, documenting evidence, and seeking legal advice, you can increase your chances of recovering the lost rent and finding a new tenant swiftly.
Remember, acting swiftly and strategically empowers you to regain control and mitigate the consequences of a tenant doing a runner.