How to track down a tenant that disappeared
Perhaps one of the most frustrating, infuriating, and anger-inducing things that might happen to you as a buy-to-let landlord and property investor is the disappearing tenant. You visit the property to conduct a scheduled property inspection and plan to take the opportunity to chase up the three months of rent that remains outstanding. When you arrive at your property, it’s empty.
If you’re lucky, your nightmare tenant has gone with only their possessions. In the very worst-case scenario, the tenant has taken the white goods and decent furniture.
It used to cost a fortune to hire a private detective to track down a tenant on the run. Today, there are plenty of things you can do to find a tenant from hell who thinks he’s got away with your money and belongings. Here, we’ll look at three of these, all of which are cheap, easy, and effective ways to track down a disappeared tenant.
First, don’t panic
When you discover that your tenant has done a bunk, those emotions are going to start racing. The first thing you must do is calm down. Once you’ve collected your thoughts, you should:
- Document your losses
- Contact the police
- Report the disappearance to your insurance company and determine what your landlord insurance covers
Now you’ve done these essentials; you can start tracking down your nightmare tenant.
Find your nightmare tenant on Facebook
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels are great places to start your search. Most people have multiple social media accounts, and these should be your first port of call. If you do find the tenant on Facebook or one of their other social media accounts, there are some actions you could take.
- You might try to private message the tenant. You never know your luck: a well-worded and polite message may prompt the tenant to have a sudden pang of guilt and want to pay you what is owed. Don’t hold your breath, though!
- My preference would be to alert the police to your find. Up-to-date pictures and Facebook’s geotagging application, as well as your ex-tenants messages, could help the police to find the tenant.
- Tell your insurance company about the social media presence – they’ll have an even bigger incentive to track down the tenant than the police do.
Whatever you do, take care that you never send disparaging messages either to or about the tenant.
Get in touch with the tenant’s employer
During your tenant vetting process, you referenced the tenants with their employers. If you followed the tenant vetting process properly, you’d have spoken to the employer and made certain that the reference was genuine.
Now you can contact the employer again. Tell them you’re a former landlord trying to track down your former tenant. Take care not to give too much information away. Don’t embarrass the nightmare tenant to their employer.
If your ex-tenant is still at the company, the likelihood is that they won’t want their employer knowing what they’ve done. You’ll be surprised how accommodating a tenant from hell can be when faced with public embarrassment at work.
It may be that the tenant has also moved on from their named employment. If this is the case, ask for a forwarding address or the details of their new employer.
Track the tenant through their friends and the electoral roll
As a last resort, contact any personal references you have taken. Again, take care not to divulge any incriminating information – you may feel like you want to destroy your ex-tenants character, but that won’t help you get your money back. It is the most time-consuming of the tenant-tracking methods, which is why it should be last on your list.
You may also have some luck by searching the local authority’s electoral roll – though this takes a lot of patience and a very methodical approach.
There are no guarantees that you’ll find your nightmare tenant, nor that if you do they will be forthcoming with the money. But doing something is better than doing nothing, and if you do find the tenant and hand the details to the police and your insurance company, you will have done all you can to recoup your losses before taking the ultimate action: taking the tenant to court. Be warned, though: even with a County Court Judgement against the nightmare tenant, if they have no income it could take them years to repay the amount they owe.
Contact me or one of the Ezytrac team today on +44 1522 503 717. We’ll help you strategize your tenant search and find the best possible tenants. There’s no guarantee that a tenant won’t go bad or turn into a nightmare tenant, but our experience is that starting off on the right foot and then keeping in constant contact pays dividends. Perhaps our approach to tenant management – an approach that makes sure your time is your own, and that the tenant feels valued – is the reason we have such extremely low numbers of tenants that go bad on their buy-to-let landlords.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA