Piggybank News

October 18, 2011

What can you do if your tenant leaves things behind when they move out?

Filed under: Property — nspresources @ 1:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This is a common problem for landlords, who are faced with needing to clear the property before they can re-let it. Unfortunately, even if the tenant owes you money, the law does not allow you to sell or dispose of the items as they do not belong to you.

Fortunately the  Torts Interference with Goods Act 1977 gives you a method to deal with this.  You are required to serve a letter on the owner of the goods (in your case, the tenant) giving him a list of the things you have and telling him where he can collect them from and what he needs to do.  The collection point does not have to be the property address – so you are able to move the stuff out into a more suitable storage facility in the meantime.

The letter needs to ask the tenant to come and take the goods away within a specified period of time (say 21 days), and give notice that if he does not do this, the goods will be sold or otherwise disposed of under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.  The letter needs to be served by recorded or registered post – email and texts are not considered suitable.

If the tenant fails to collect the things, you can dispose of them but if they have any value, you have a duty to get the best price possible and hold this for the tenant (or offset it against your rent arrears).

All of this is fine as long as you have a forwarding address for your tenant.  What if they did a moonlight flit and you have no idea where they are?  The act does allow for this – as long as you have made reasonable efforts to find the owner of the goods, you can dispose of them without sending the letter.  It is however difficult to define what are considered “reasonable” efforts.  It is possible to use tracing agents and I always take emergency contact details for tenants, which is usually a family member who may be able to contact the tenant on your behalf.

Whatever you do, the best advice is to make sure that you keep a record of the steps taken in case you are ever asked to justify your actions.

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