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More about proving abandonment
Establishing abandonment is tricky but essential as a defence against possible legal action by the tenant for unlawful eviction. Sometimes tenants leave no personal effects but do leave furniture they no longer require, making it more difficult to establish abandonment.
If the property is furnished, you have to be more vigilant, as it is more difficult to prove abandonment. In this instance you can only go by the absence of the tenant's personal effects. Other clues will come from the sell by dates of food in the fridge, a build-up of mail on the mat or a lack of clothes in wardrobes, or toiletries in the bathroom.
If you really cannot find out anything further about the tenant’s whereabouts, you will have to make your own decision about whether to change the locks or not. The legal test for abandonment asks two questions. Is the property capable of sustaining day-to-day living? Was it reasonable for the landlord to assume abandonment?
If the answer to the first question is ‘yes’, you may still find that a court will decide the answer to the second question is ‘no’, and you may be found guilty of unlawful eviction. The only two lawful ways to recover possession are voluntary surrender by the tenant or a visit by the Bailiff. Anything else is a grey area, but by being patient, vigilant and thorough, you should avoid any claims for unlawful eviction.