Tenant abandonment refers to surrendering of legal rights to tenancy by the tenant. In simple words, it is the act of sudden and unduly long disappearance of the tenant without providing any information to the landlord. The most difficult aspect for the landlord is to determine if the tenant has indeed abandoned his property or is just out on long official tour or vacation or has to attend some emergency situation which has kept him away from his rented premises for a sufficiently long period for the landlord to get worried. As per law, abandonment has to be proved beyond doubt and backed up by strong and decisive evidence. The ambiguity related to tenant abandonment is that the landlord may face a case of illegal eviction if indeed the landlord has mistaken the prolonged period of absence of the tenant for abandonment. The landlord should be even more careful in situations when he is somehow able to establish that the tenant has left his personal belongings behind.
When a landlord is faced with such long periods of his tenant going missing, his first objective should be to establish whether the tenant has indeed abandoned the property or it is just a period of prolonged absence of the tenant. A few pointers should help the landlord draw an inference. These include:
Whether the tenant has stopped paying rent?
Whether the neighbours saw him move out or did he leave a message with the neighbours?
Whether his friends or colleagues have any knowledge of his whereabouts?
Has the tenant requested for a change of address at the Post office?
In case the landlord is not fully convinced that his tenant has abandoned the property, it is safer and wise for the landlord to give a written notice to the tenant expressing doubt that tenant has abandoned the property. This notice should necessarily include a termination date. It becomes much easier for the landlord to press his claim for eviction through a legal proceeding in cases where the tenant fails to reply to the notice. In most cases, the reply to the notice actually confirms whether the tenant has actually abandoned the property or not.
Each and every state has its own law to handle tenant abandonment. As a responsible and law abiding landlord, you must study and understand the laws related to tenant abandonment. This would mean reviewing the landlord-tenant rules applicable to your state. More importantly, you may include suitable provisions related to period of absence in the rent agreement to remove any ambiguity related to tenant abandonment.
The advantages that accrue to the landlord is case of an assumed abandonment is that they are able to quickly re-let the property and hence stop the financial losses being faced by them. However, when in doubt it is best advisable to send a notice or seek expert legal advice on abandonment from an attorney to avoid any legal claims later. This is because no circumstances can force the landlord to deny the right to access to the rented property to the tenant.