How to deal with items left behind at the end of a tenancy

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Sometimes tenants leave behind possessions at the end of a tenancy, or when they abandon the premises.

As a landlord, this can put you in a difficult position, whilst the temptation might be to get rid of all items instantly, tenants may later claim that they are irreplaceable or were of high sentimental value, so you need to be careful.

The requirements of the law may seem like yet another case of increasing responsibility for landlords, fortunately such cases are rare however.

Under common law, the landlord is responsible for the safe keeping of any possessions left behind by the tenants.

The tenant is further given statutory protection by The Torts (interference with Goods) Act 1977. The law reasons that an abandoned tenancy with the tenant’s possessions still in the property may give an indication that the tenant may return.

The same act allows landlords to sell goods left in the property provided that reasonable efforts to trace the owner of the goods fail. However, the landlord must serve a notice stating his or her intention to dispose of the items, how to arrange collection of the items, and ensure that disposal does not begin until the notice has expired.

Landlords should not release a tenant’s possessions to a third party without the full and verified consent of the original tenant. They also cannot by law withhold a tenant’s possessions against any debt the tenant may owe, though the landlord can apply the proceeds of any sale of the goods to a debt, providing the above procedure is followed.

We recommend the following procedure when dealing with left behind possessions:

  • Take photos and make an inventory of the goods before moving or disposing of them, if possible have an independent witness verify this.
  • Make every effort to trace the tenant to their new address or contact them through any forwarding address. Post a notice at the rental property, you may also wish to consider positing an advertisement in the local press.
  • If you are still unable to trace the tenant then you are free to sell or otherwise dispose of the goods
  • Otherwise, notify the tenant that the goods are available for collection, how to collect them and state that they will be kept for a reasonable period before disposal in accordance with the Act.
  • Make sure your notice clearly identifies you as the landlord and gives full contact details.

Landlords and tenants can protect their possessions with great value insurance from Discount Landlord today.

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