Here is a question to the blog clinic from Peter who is a landlord:
I had a tenant who left her flat, went back to Nigeria, never paid rent for three months and through a friend promised to send rent money although it never came..EVER.
The agent served an abandonment notice / section 8 and told me I can now legally get the flat cleared of all items..the agent changed the locks.
I had the flat cleared and cleaned and thought that was that.
The tenant has now returned from Nigeria, paid the rent and wants the flat plus her stuff..shush is now in the local tip…what repercussions can I expect..or is the problem belonging to the agent?
I am afraid you are in trouble! Your tenant will probably be entitled to bring a claim against you for unlawful eviction and for the value of her goods that you destroyed. (The fact that an abandonment notice was put on the door will not help – although possibly a defence of implied surrender may.)
Plus you are vulnerable to prosecution from the Council as unlawful eviction is a criminal offence.
The fact that a tenant has failed to pay rent and has gone abroad does NOT entitle you as of right to go in and change the locks! The ONLY safe way to do this is after obtaining a court order for possession and using the court bailiffs or sherifs.
Your only excuse (apart from the implied surrender one – which will be difficult as she left her stuff in the property) is that your agent told you it was the thing to do. Legally you are still liable, as landlords are liable for the things done by agents on their behalf. So you will not be able to use this as a defence to any claim made by your tenant.
However you MAY then be able to claim back from the agent any compensation you are ordered to pay to the tenant.