The latest survey information from the National Landlords Association shows that up to half of all landlords have at some point had a property abandoned by a tenant.
Out of those landlords who have experienced runaway tenants, nearly four out of ten say that this had happened to them within the last year with more than a fifth saying it had happened just within the last six months.
Its not all bad news for landlords however as 41% of landlords questioned say that it had been more than two years since a tenant had abandoned one of their properties, suggesting that perhaps as landlords become more experienced they are less likely to suffer property abandonment.
David Salusbury, chairman of the NLA, says: Despite the fact that the majority of tenancies end satisfactorily for both parties, the findings of our survey show that all landlords face the risk of a tenant abandoning a property at some point in time. If you are a landlord for many years, or if you have a large number of rented properties, sooner or later it will happen to you.
The NLA recommends a number of steps that landlords can take to minimise the risks such as asking for a written reference from the prospective tenants current employer. This confirms that the prospective tenant is indeed a full time employee with the firm and gives the landlord an additional contact should the tenant leave before the tenancy is up.
Tenants are much less likely to abandon a property if a landlord has a record of their place of work and next of kin. A written reference should also be sought from the previous landlord where relevant. Landlords usually also take a one month deposit at the start of the tenancy which can go part way to covering any lost rent or damages. They should note however that from October 2006 rental deposits will have to be placed in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme, under provisions of the Housing Act 2004.
The survey findings suggest that once a landlord has experienced an absconded tenant they do, for the most part, take action to guard against a recurrence. More than half, 52%, of landlords who have experienced a tenant abandoning one of their properties say that it has only happened to them once. However, a remaining fifth of landlords say that they had suffered the experience on three or more occasions in the last two years which suggests that in reality it may be very difficult for landlords to prevent a tenant from absconding.
Once a tenant has disappeared it can be very difficult for landlords to reclaim lost rent or damages even through the courts, as the tenant may be impossible to trace. The extent of the problem is proven by the fact that the issue of unreliable tenants is one that causes landlords the most concern, second only to increasing government regulation.
Salusbury adds: Occasionally a tenant may lose their job or encounter financial difficulties. Id encourage people who find themselves in that position to seek professional help and speak to their landlord. It may be that a mutually satisfactory solution can be found. Upping sticks and abandoning a rented property is not the way out of the fix.
No matter what precautions they take many landlords may still find themselves prey to the minority of people out there who are dishonest. The UK private rented sector houses a wide demographic spread of people which includes some of the UKs most vulnerable. Certain areas within the sector present a higher risk of unsatisfactory tenancies than others and at a time when government is focusing on improving the rights of tenants it is important that they also ensure that the rights of the landlord are equally protected.