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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Abandonment

Your Housing Executive or housing association property must be your main or only home.  Your landlord can end your tenancy if they think you are living somewhere else.

This is called abandonment. 

The landlord has to follow the right process to end your tenancy in this way 

Abandoning your tenancy

Your landlord may think you've abandoned your property if

  • someone tells them that you are living somewhere else
  • someone tells them that your property seems to be empty
  • they've called to your home several times and you're not there

You don't have to sleep at your home every night. But, you should tell your landlord if you are going to be away from home for a while.

Abandonment process

Your landlord has to follow the proper abandonment process to end your tenancy. 

The landlord will usually visit your home several times to find out if you are living there. They will

  • ask neighbours if they have seen you at the property recently
  • look through windows to see if there are signs that someone is living there
  • check if there is any uncollected post for your address.

If the landlord thinks you aren't living at the property, they must

  • put an abandonment notice on your home (usually on your front door)
  • give you at least 4 weeks to respond to the notice
  • serve another notice ending your tenancy if you don't respond.

Responding to an abandonment notice

Contact your landlord immediately if you find an abandonment notice on your home. 

Explain why you have not been at your home. 

Different things can show you havee been living at your home or that you have a good reason for not being there

  • proof that you've been using electricity or heat at the property
  • receipts for food or parcel deliveries to your home
  • tickets for holidays during the period you were not at the property
  • proof that you've been in hospital or some other type of facility.

Contact our helpline if the landlord decides they are still going to end your tenancy. 

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 our helpline if you want to appeal an abandonment decision.

Dealing with items in an abandoned tenancy

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.

Contact our helpine if you are in this situation.