If a tenant moves out of a property without giving notice, the tenancy is considered to be abandoned.
If you suspect your tenant has abandoned the tenancy
Try contacting the tenant
If you’re a landlord and you think the tenant has abandoned the tenancy, try contacting the tenant first.
If you make contact, ask them to confirm in writing that they’re returning possession of the property to you. If you get this confirmation, you can immediately enter the property. At the same time, ask them to return the keys.
If you can’t make contact
You need to be sure the tenancy really is abandoned. You can consider the tenancy abandoned if both these things are true:
- the rent is overdue. It’s not enough if the rent just isn’t in advance as much as it should be.
- you have reasonable grounds to think that the tenants have left and aren’t coming back.
Entering the property
You can knock on the door of the property, look around the outside and speak with neighbours to get a better idea about the situation. You can’t enter the house unless you give notice, even if the landlord thinks the tenant is not living there anymore.
You can give 24 hours’ notice (plus service time) to enter the property if:
- you have reasonable cause to believe the tenant has abandoned the property, and
- the rent is 14 days in arrears or more.
Otherwise you must give 48 hours’ notice (plus service time) before entering the house. After the service time and notice period expire you can enter the house, inspect it and secure it.
Landlords must not enter the house with 24 hours’ notice if they don’t have reasonable cause to believe it is abandoned. If they do this, the Tenancy Tribunal could order the landlord to pay the tenant damages of:
- up to $1,000 for the unlawful entry
- up to a further $2,000 for the breach of the tenants quiet enjoyment.
Process for abandoned properties
While you will likely want to get into the property as soon as possible to re-let it, you must follow the correct process. This process protects both the tenant and the landlord. There are different rules for boarding houses.
You will need to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to return possession of the property to you. There are two types of application, depending on what is best for you. We recommend using the expedited abandonment application first to reduce the time the property remains abandoned. You can then file a further standard application for any outstanding claims such as rent arrears or damages.
You must complete all parts of the application form and attach any required documents. If you don’t, we may not accept your application or it could be delayed.
It is an unlawful act for a tenant to abandon a tenancy without reasonable excuse. The Tenancy Tribunal could order a tenant who abandons to pay the landlord damages of up to $1,000 and compensation.
Expedited Abandonment Application
This enables the Tenancy Tribunal to return possession of a property to the landlord within 10 working days. If certain requirements are met there is no need for mediation or a Tenancy Tribunal hearing.
The landlord needs to provide:
- a copy of the tenancy agreement
- a rent summary showing the tenant is in arrears
- a valid email contact address for the tenant
- sufficient evidence that the property is abandoned.
We will then contact they tenant and they will have one working day to contest the application. If they don’t respond, an Order that returns possession of the property to the landlord may be issued.
A Tenancy Tribunal hearing will be scheduled if:
- the tenant doesn’t accept that the tenancy has been abandoned
- the Tribunal isn’t satisfied that the tenant doesn’t want to dispute the matter, or
- the Adjudicator does not think there is enough evidence.
If this happens, everyone involved will be told where the hearing is and when it will take place. The application may then take longer than 10 working days.
You can’t claim the bond, or costs such as rent arrears and damages through this process. That will need to be done through a further application.
Standard Tenancy Tribunal application
Landlords will need to make a standard application to the Tenancy Tribunal if they:
- can’t provide a valid email contact address for the tenant
- can’t provide enough evidence that the property is abandoned, or
- want to apply for more than just a possession order, such as rent arrears, costs for damage, or the bond.