You haven’t received your monthly rent, and you go to visit the rental unit to talk to the tenant personally. What do you find there? The apartment is locked up tight, and nobody seems to be home. You might decide to leave then, and return at a later date, only to find the property empty once again. You might also decide to call your tenant, only to hear the message that their phone is switched off. While this could all happen if your tenant is out of town for business or pleasure, the signs generally point to an abandoned rental property.
So, what do you do if your tenant has suddenly abandoned the property before their lease was up and how do you determine if they really have abandoned the rental unit?
Well, there are some simple ways to determine if a tenant has genuinely given you the slip and disappeared in the mid of their tenancy.
Determining Tenant Abandonment
If your tenant was behind on their rent payments, there’s a big chance that they might have abandoned your unit without notice. However, there are some practical ways to confirm this. These include:
- Visiting the Rental at Random Times
- Calling Your Tenant from Time to Time
- Asking the Neighbours
- Checking the Utilities
- Calling Their Emergency Numbers
- Change of Address at Bank or Workplace
- Checking for Tenant’s Belongings
Let’s consider each of these in detail to determine whether you’re dealing with an abandoned rental property.
Visiting the Rental at Random Times
Yes, you’re busy and do not have the time to wait for your tenant at their door constantly. However, if a tenant owes you rent, there’s a big chance that they are merely avoiding a confrontation by staying outdoors during the day. Try visiting the property in the evening. Simply observe the rental unit from a distance. If you see lights turned on after dark, there’s a chance your tenant is at home and simply pretending to be gone in the daytime.
Calling Your Tenant from Time to Time
Communication has become fairly easy with mobile phones, but that’s no match for a tenant who’s trying to hide from their monthly rent and a furious landlord. Regardless of that, though, try calling your tenant from time to time while you are trying to determine whether you really have an abandoned rental property on your hands. It is possible that they are busy during the day, hospitalised and unconscious for a week, or even out of town to a remote area where mobile network is poor.
Asking the Neighbours
One of the other steps to determine whether your tenant has abandoned the property is to ask around. Most responsible tenants will inform their neighbours of an upcoming prolonged absence or trip so that the neighbours can be on the lookout for suspicious people trying to enter their home. The neighbours might also have seen the tenants moving their belongings out of the rental property if they were planning to abandon it. Thus, do not miss out on talking to the neighbours.
Checking the Utilities
Most people turn off water valves, electricity cutouts, and gas meters if they are going on holiday. Check if that’s the case with your rental property. If the tenant has made an effort to turn off the utilities, there’s a big chance that they’ve done so to avoid being charged a hefty bill due to accidental leaks upon their return. This also means that they plan to return back to the rental unit once they are back in town.
Give it a few days or even a few months. Tenants who have abandoned their tenancy are not considerate enough to turn off the utilities to prevent a bill from being charged to their landlord, and this can be a major indicator of tenant abandonment.
Calling Their Emergency Numbers
Always take a couple of emergency phone numbers from your tenants when you rent out your property. This is because you never know when you might need them. Your tenant might fall sick or get injured, and you might need to call up their loved ones to inform them of the situation, especially if your tenant lives in the rental alone.
These numbers can also be your saviours in case of an abandoned tenancy as you can call your tenant’s loved ones and inquire about their whereabouts. While there’s no guarantee that they’ll tell you the truth, especially if your tenant is trying to evade rental payments, but then again, you just might find out that they’re out of town or severely ill and hospitalised for treatment.
Change of Address at the Workplace
Tenants are required to leave basic contact information with their landlords when they are signing a rental agreement. This includes details about where they work. If all else has failed, try reaching out to your tenant’s office and explain the situation. If the tenant is at work, request whether you can speak to them on the phone. Assuming that you are told that they’re away on leave, you’ll know that they’ll be coming back eventually.
However, if the workplace states that the person has left their employment and probably state a number of complaints in this regard, be forewarned. Your tenant is probably long gone. Additionally, if you call the workplace and want to speak to your tenant and they refuse to attend the call, realise that you will now have to visit them at work if you want to question them on their abandonment of the property.
Checking for Tenant’s Belongings
The last resort to determine tenant abandonment, which many landlords might not be comfortable with, is to check whether your tenant has any belongings remaining in the rental unit. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to open the lock and enter the apartment. Look at the condition the property is in and also check for personal belongings. Clothes, shoes, hair and makeup accessories, toothbrushes, food in the fridge, and so on.
Scope the place out and lastly, look for the key to your unit. Most tenants will leave the key behind if they plan on abandoning the home permanently. If there are sufficient signs to tell you that the tenant is just gone on a holiday, you can simply wait for them to return and reach out to you. If the place only contains all the furniture and belongings that you rented the unit with or if some of your own property is also missing from the mix, that’s a clear sign that the tenants have fled the apartment and taken what they could with them.
Use the above methods to determine if your tenant plans on coming back and if the signs point otherwise, change the locks on your rental property after seeking legal help. Remember that not all tenants will disappear and abandon a rental property. However, there are some major reasons why a tenant will move out of a rental. Keep these in mind and play your part as a good landlord to retain your tenants for longer.
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