Coronavirus: What happens if the tenant gives notice to leave?

Coronavirus is affecting landlords and tenants in many different ways. In the unlikely event that a tenant wants to move out during this period of movement restriction, what are the common issues that either the tenant or landlord will face?

Serving notice as a tenant

Let’s start with the tenant, as the current crisis does not restrict their ability to serve notice. Obviously, in the current climate, it is unlikely that many people will want to move, but this may become unavoidable if the lockdown continues for a prolonged period. If the tenant wants to serve notice then they need to follow any notice period obligations laid down within the tenancy. The most common notice period required is around one month.

The biggest problem for the tenant will most likely be removing all their possessions before their notice period ends, considering that self-distancing protocol will make it very difficult for them to get assistance from relatives and friends. Furthermore, removal firms have currently ceased trading, with a minority of van hire companies doing the same, so the logistics of moving will be a challenge.

Legally, a tenant must provide a property free from their possessions at the time of handing back the keys. The tenant leaving possessions behind could result in a loss being suffered by the landlord, which could range from being unable to let the property if substantial items were left, through to the costs incurred in either taking possessions to the tip or placing them in storage for the tenant to collect at a future date. These costs could be deducted from the deposit by the landlord at the end of the tenancy, if they could show a loss had been suffered.

Returning deposits during the coronavirus crisis

Moving onto the deposit, the other issue that could become problematic would be the efficient return of the deposit to either the landlord or tenant. The timescales for the deposit return are normally stipulated within the tenancy. Usually they are around 28 days to a calendar month. An obvious problem is going to be finding someone to undertake a check out, as many inventory providers have closed for the time being.

As a landlord, you could undertake the check out yourself, making sure you take the necessary precautions. If there are no deductions to be made, it is nice and simple. The landlord can go onto the relevant deposit scheme website and refund the money back to the tenant in full. However, if deductions are to be made, then the added complication would be trying to source contractors/tradesman willing to provide quotes and estimates, within a reasonable timescale or if at all.

In the deposit schemes terms and conditions, they normally allow 10 working days for a tenant and landlord to deal with any deposit disputes before either party can start alternative dispute resolution, known as ADR for short. Considering the current crisis, it may take much longer than the 10 days allowed to deal with any deposit deductions, so both landlord and tenant alike need to show some patience. The three deposit schemes have issued their own guidance on these matters and it would be worth reading the guidance if you find yourself in such a situation.

Re-letting a property during the coronavirus crisis

In relation to re-letting the property, at the moment many letting agencies have restricted the services they offer to landlords including physical viewings. Some are offering virtual tours of a property, which in its simplest form is an efficient way of introducing a property to an interested party. However, the landlord needs to be mindful that virtual tours do not remove the necessity of an agent to provide as much information as possible about the property, to ensure that they do not breach consumer protection regulations. For example, an agent should produce room size measurements and more detail about the property locality ie shops and schools so the applicant has sufficient information to make a clear decision. If the agent fails in that duty, any subsequently signed tenancy could be declared null and void if the tenant is proves such information was not forthcoming.

In these uncertain and challenging times, the property experts at Foxes are on-hand to help. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Email lettings@foxes.co.uk or call 01202 299600

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