I Think My Tenants Have Abandoned the Property – Now What?
There are numerous reasons why tenants may abandon a rental property and it can be entirely unexpected. If you have suspicions that a tenant has abandoned a property you manage, it’s essential to follow the correct procedures before changing the locks and attempting to re-let the property.
Do You Have Reasonable Grounds to Believe the Property Has Been Abandoned?
Firstly, you must have reasonable grounds to believe the property has been abandoned. Some triggers may include some of the following:
- the rent hasn’t been paid in full (or at all);
- the tenant has stopped responding to your communication attempts;
- lawns and gardens are unkempt;
- the letterbox is overflowing;
- neighbours or other sources have provided information to suggest the tenancy is abandoned; and
- you’ve received information from the tenant that suggests they’ve abandoned the property.
If you have reasonable cause to suspect abandonment, the RTRA Act allows property managers to gain access to the property to confirm this [RTRA Act section 192 (1) (h)]. To do so, you must issue an Entry notice (Form 9) allowing 24 hours’ notice to inspect and confirm abandonment.
During that time, the tenant may contact you, advising they have received the Form 9 and haven’t abandoned the premises. This communication with the tenant provides you as property manager with the opportunity to attempt to resolve any concerns you may have (e.g., overgrown lawns or unpaid rent). However, if you do not receive any contact from the tenant, you can access the property by using the agency keys as per the Form 9.
Determining Whether or Not the Property Is Abandoned
Upon inspection and confirmation that the tenants have abandoned the property, Section 355 of the RTRA Act allows you/the lessor to terminate the tenancy. Examples of what the property manager may find during the inspection that would assist in their investigation may be:
- a distinct absence of household furniture and items;
- no personal belongings left lying around; or
- the utilities are disconnected.
Ending the Tenancy
There are two options for ending the tenancy:
1.Issue an Abandonment termination notice (Form 15) to the tenant at their residence.
(a) A tenant must notify the property manager/owner that they haven’t abandoned the tenancy within 7 days of receiving the notice; OR
(b) lodge an application applied to QCAT to have the notice set aside.
If the property manager does not receive any of the above, the tenancy will end seven days after the Form 15 is issued.
2. Apply for a QCAT order.
Still Uncertain if the Property is Abandoned or Not?
If you’ve inspected the property and aren’t sure if the tenant has abandoned the property, you may make an urgent application to QCAT under Section 357 of the RTRA Act, seeking an order to terminate the tenancy. Once you terminate the tenancy, you/the lessor can change the locks, prepare the property for re-letting and commence the re-letting process.
A claim can be made against the bond in the usual way by sending an RTA Form 4 to the RTA. If you or the lessor believe the incurred costs have exceeded the bond, then either you or the lessor may apply to QCAT for compensation.
Finally, it’s important to note that you must handle any goods and documents left in the premises as per the provisions of the RTRA Act (Sections 363 and 364).