Published: 02/06/2020Although quite rare, tenants do sometimes leave belongings behind when they leave a rental property. It's often the case that these items are of no significant value, but it's essential to know where you stand as a landlord? Failure to do so could involve thousands of pounds in compensation to the tenant.
The Golden Rule
If belongings are left behind, never throw them away!
Luckily, you do have some legal backing in this situation. The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 allows you to dispose of any belongings left behind, on the condition that you follow a specific course of action first.
If the property is left abandoned, but there are still belongings, there are further legal implications as the tenant could intend to return to the property in the future.
When can I dispose of the belongings?
The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 states that landlords must keep any possessions left in the property for three months.
What You Need To Do
Send a recorded delivery letter to guarantee the tenant receives it. Explain in your letter that you wish to dispose of or sell the items. You must inform them of how to contact you to retrieve them.
- List the belongs that you hold
- State where they are held
- Inform the tenant of the date on which you intend to dispose of the items
- Give the tenant plenty of notice
- Give a generous window for the tenant to collect their belongings - at least two to four weeks
Remember, this could be a genuine mistake on their behalf, so you should give your tenant the chance to rectify the situation.
Always keep copies of correspondence relating to this for your records.
No forwarding address
You are required, by law, to prove that you've made a reasonable attempt to get in touch with the tenant. A tracing agent can help track down the tenant's address. These companies often won't charge you if they can't find the information. If the tenant can't be found, keep the report that notifies you, and then you're good to go ahead with the disposal.
You've followed the procedures in place, and you're now ready to sell the items and pocket the cash. Sadly, the money's not yours to keep, as it belongs to the tenant. However, if a tenant leaves behind possessions while owing you money, you can use the proceeds of the sale of the items to pay off the debt, providing you have followed all the procedures.
By law, you must sell the goods for the best price possible and return any funds to the tenant once their debt and your costs have been deducted.
Keep all documents surrounding the sale of goods, including any valuations before selling, for your records.
At Circa London, we ensure that belongings left behind are dealt with to the letter of the law. However, in our experience, tenancies generally end without any hitches, and your property will be left empty and ready for the next tenant.