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Handing over the keys at the end of a tenancy

Question...

My girlfriend and I moved out of our property last month at the end of our tenancy. We then went on holiday for two weeks and realised we had not handed in our keys , which we duly did on our return. The landlord is insisting on charging us two weeks extra rent and wanting to deduct it from our deposit. Can he do this? I have looked all through my tenancy agreement and cannot find any details on this.

Answer...

If a tenant fails to return the keys, this is normally taken to mean he has not given up the tenancy and therefore can be open to lots of issues for the landlord, even if the tenant has actually moved out. Handing in your keys is your officially surrendering of the property at the end of your tenancy. (I will add this does not apply during a tenancy). It could be deemed that as you have held on to the keys you were still intending to re-enter the property, maybe you still had belongings inside?. Also, for the all the landlord knew, you might have deliberately withheld the keys because you still needed to use the property itself.

A landlord cannot re-let a property until he has received the keys back, unless he arranges to have the locks changed. However, he needs to be careful about changing the locks, as the tenant may then claim unlawful eviction, which is a criminal offence. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for your landlord to claim the two weeks rent from your deposit.

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