Help! The Tenants Have Taken The Keys – What To Do?

9 November 2017

The Landlord Essentials series from the Online Letting Agent LetBritain aims to help landlords navigate tenancy regulations. This week we’re looking at a common question we hear from landlords that isn’t as tricky to solve as it might first appear. That question is: ‘what do I do if the tenant took my keys?

Here’s our quick explainer so you know your rights and your options.

The easy way out

In most cases, the situation can be resolved with a bit of old skool diplomacy. Often, the tenant will simply have forgotten to return the keys upon moving out, and just asking nicely will solve the problem. Don’t escalate things unnecessarily. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress and inconvenience by resolving the situation quietly, politely and professionally if this route is open to you.

The next step is to write a formal letter (obviously this is dependent on having your ex-tenants’ forwarding address). Seeing something official in writing can reinforce the validity of your requests. It’s also worth reminding the recipients of the letter that tenants are liable for rent until the keys have been returned.

In some circumstances, it is unclear whether the tenant has officially left or is simply staying temporarily elsewhere. Even if the tenant has stopped paying rent, you will need to go through the normal process of serving an eviction notice and getting a possession order to set the wheels in motion to officially terminate the tenancy.

Withhold the Deposit

If none of the polite angles are proving to be successful, you can begin to explore alternative angles to reclaim your losses. In most cases, the tenant is not entitled to receive their deposit back until the keys have officially been returned.

Therefore, you might be able to replace the locks and keys with money reclaimed from the tenant’s deposit.

You should, however, check the terms of your tenancy deposit protection scheme before doing this.

Legal Advice

If you’re the landlord of a large, multi-occupancy building, in which many locks would have to be changed, there’s a good chance that the deposit won’t cover all of the costs and disruption that changing all those locks would cause.

At this point, you should seek legal advice. Since the conditions of letting contracts can be unique and nuanced, there’s not always a one-size fits all solution to the problem, and consulting a legal professional is the best way of untangling your situation.

Advice from the Online Letting Agent LetBritain

If you’re looking for more advice on common challenges faced by UK landlords, then the rest of our Landlord Essentials series should help you out, along with our extensive Legal Library.

If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive alternative to traditional high street estate agents, then the LetBritain team can definitely help you out. Contact us today to find out more about our low-cost online service.