Tenant abandonment, or not?
I have a tenant on an RLA AST since 2012, who gave notice in writing on 28 July that she would quit the property today, 14 August. The notice did not give a full month’s notice or give the end of a rental period as the end date, but I accepted it anyway. The tenant has been in arrears on and off for much of the last two years and I am happy that she wants to move on. I have not pursued her significantly for the arrears as she has normally paid up over time, and her giving notice was not as a result of any action on my part. She has two children, one approx. 14 years old and another young child.
Since giving notice I have written to her re arrears, which total about one month, and also requirements for cleaning. She disputed both of these and stopped replying to any communication on 7 August. She had agreed in writing to meet me today at the property to return the keys, but she did not show.
She has removed the most vital and valuable of her possessions, for example clothes, kitchen equipment, refrigerator, her bed and sofas. The gas is unpaid so a resident could not cook or keep food, or use hot water. However, there are some clothes, furniture and children’s items in most rooms, together with a lot of rubbish. On balance I think she has abandoned the property and is hoping to avoid me, but there is enough stuff left in the property which might give a court or third party cause for doubt.
I have texted and emailed the tenant today asking for her to get in touch, with no reply.
The property is in the West Midlands area and I understand from my letting agent that a formal eviction process will take months as there is court backlog. They suggested posting an abandonment notice at the property, which might give some more certainty re whether she is going to return. However, I know this has no formal legal status. I also appreciate that doing things like collecting her possessions (not disposing of yet) and changing locks could leave me liable if done too early or if she comes back.
There is some building work and decoration that needs doing, can I get this done whilst she is absent?
Please could you suggest my possible next steps? I need to weigh up risk vs reward
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