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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Abandonment

If you are a tenant of the Housing Executive or a housing association, your tenancy could be ended using if your landlord thinks you’ve left the property without following the right procedure.  

Your landlord doesn’t have to go to court to end your tenancy, but it has to be satisfied that you’ve definitely left the property and has to follow the abandonment process properly. 

If you’ve abandoned your most recent tenancy, it might be difficult to pass the intentionality test if you go to the Housing Executive for help as a homeless person, but the Housing Executive should look at your reasons for leaving the property before deciding you are intentionally homeless. 

Deciding a property has been abandoned

Your landlord has to have a reason to believe that you have abandoned your tenancy.  This could be because your neighbours have said you’re no longer living there.  A housing officer might visit your home to check for signs that the property is empty.  

If you have to leave your home for a while, make sure you let your landlord know how long you’ll be away for.  You might be able to get housing benefit to cover the rent while you’re awayIf your landlord believes you’ve left it has to serve you with an Abandonment Notice.  The Notice will ask you to get in touch with your landlord within 4 weeks and let you know that if you don’t do this your tenancy will be ended.

After the 4 weeks your landlord will serve a further notice ending the tenancy if it hasn’t heard from you.

Items left in the property

Your landlord will have to store any items you’ve left in the property for 6 months.  The landlord will tell you, in writing, that

  • it is holding your items
  • you have to collect the items on a specific date
  • you are responsible for any costs associated with storing the items.

If your landlord believes that any items left in the property are of such poor condition that any money they’d raise at a sale wouldn’t cover the storage costs, it won’t have to keep them after the date specified in the letter. Your landlord will have to keep any other items in storage for 6 months.  If you haven’t claimed them by the end of the six months your landlord can sell the items.

Appealing an abandonment

If your tenancy was wrongly terminated through this process you can appeal to County Court.  You can appeal up to 6 months after the date the tenancy was ended.  The court can order that your landlord

  • allows you to keep your tenancy, as long as the property hasn’t been given to another tenant or
  • offer you an alternative tenancy.

For your appeal to succeed, you’ll need to be able to show that you were still living in the property as your only home, but you were temporarily away from home for a genuine reason.  Talk to an adviser at Housing Rights if you want to appeal an abandonment decision.