If you are a private landlord, managing your rental portfolio yourself, occasionally you may come across a situation of ‘abandonment’; whereby a tenant has unexpectedly vacated your property.
What are the ‘red flags’?
- Late rent
- Cessation in communication ie no response to emails etc
- Unkempt gardens
- Overflowing letterbox
- Information from neighbours
- Direct indication/communication from tenants themselves
What happens now?
It is essential that you follow the correct procedures before changing the locks and attempting to re-let the property. It is important to note, you must have reasonable grounds to believe the property has been abandoned.
If you have reasonable cause to suspect abandonment, the RTRA Act allows property managers or owners (if self-managed) 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/owner 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 keys as per the Form 9.
What to look for at Inspection
Upon inspection, you will be looking for confirmation/signs that the tenants have abandoned the property, and if this can be established, Section 355 of the RTRA Act allows you/the lessor to terminate the tenancy.
Signs indicating abandonment may include:
- Absence of furniture and personal items
- Disconnection of utilities
- Overflowing mailbox
How Do I Terminate the Tenancy?
There are two options for ending the tenancy:
- 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/owner does not receive any of the above, the tenancy will end seven days after the Form 15 is issued.
- Apply for a QCAT order.
What If I’m Still Uncertain the Property has Been Abandoned?
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.
Please note also, that you must handle any goods and documents left in the premises as per the provisions of the RTRA Act (Sections 363 and 364).