When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland


A social landlord can end your tenancy if they think you are not living in the property. This is called "abandonment". 

The landlord does not have to go to court but they do have to follow the proper process. The process is only for social landlords. Private landlords must go to court to end your tenancy unless you have confirmed that you have moved out.

Why would a landlord think the property was abandoned?

You have abandoned your property if it is no longer your main or only home.

Your landlord will usually have a reason for thinking you are living somewhere else. This could be because:

  • someone has reported that the property is empty

  • someone has reported that you are living somewhere else

  • your landlord has visited the property and it looked like nobody was living there. 

You are allowed to stay away from your home for a period of time. But, you should tell your landlord if you are going to be away from home for a while.

What process should the landlord follow?

A housing officer will usually visit your home to look for signs that you are not living there. They may ask neighbours when they last saw you.

Your landlord must serve an abandonment notice if they think you have stopped living at the property. This is usually posted on the door of your home. The notice will ask you to contact your landlord within 4 weeks. If you do not do this your tenancy will end.

Your landlord will serve a further notice if it hasn’t heard from you within the 4 weeks. This notice ends your tenancy.

What can you do if you have not abandoned the property?

Contact your landlord immediately if you get an abandonment notice. Explain why you have been away from your home.

Get advice if your landlord still thinks that you are not living at the property.

Try to find evidence to prove that you are still living at the address. Do you have proof that you've received deliveries of food or parcels? Can you prove that you've been using heat and electricity at the property?

Appealing an abandonment

You can go to court to appeal your landlord's decision to end your tenancy. You must do this within 6 months of the date your tenancy ended.

You will need to convince the court that

  • you were still living at the property, or

  • you had a genuine reason for being away from the property for a short period and planned to return

If the court believes you, it can

  • order the landlord to restart your tenancy, or

  • order the landlord to give you a tenancy of a different property. 

Contact us if you want to appeal an abandonment decision.

What happens to any 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.

Your landlord can sell any items you've left behind if you do not claim them within 6 months. The landlord can get rid of any items that are in such poor condition that they would not sell.

Finding another home after your tenancy was abandoned

It can be hard to get help from the Housing Executive if you have abandoned a tenancy. The Housing Executive may say that you are "intentionally homeless". This means they do not have to help you find a home.

Get advice if you are in this situation.