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How to Proceed If a Tenant Leaves Personal Items Behind

16th May 2023

How to Proceed If a Tenant Leaves Personal Items Behind

It can be a difficult process for a landlord if a tenant leaves personal items behind.  After a tenant has been evicted, it’s not uncommon to find rubbish, including home waste and undesired items left in a property once a tenant moves out. But what should you typically do with a tenant’s personal possessions, such as clothing, household goods, appliances, and even pets when left behind?

It’s crucial to recognise that when a tenant vacates a rental property, there are certain guidelines landlords must follow. Therefore, read on to find out how to proceed if a tenant leaves personal items behind.

What does the law indicate regarding items left behind by a tenant?

The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act of 1977 provides protection for goods left behind in a rental property. Simply put, this means you can’t get rid of them right away, even if that would be the simplest way to solve the issue.

Anything a tenant leaves behind still belongs to them; taking it is “illegal” and could get you into a lot of trouble. Of course, as a landlord, you would want to avoid any unoccupied periods and move new tenants in as soon as practically possible.

Your rights and the tenant’s rights in this matter are outlined in the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act of 1977.

Here are two legal terminology you should be familiar with before we start:

Involuntary Bailee: The landlord left with abandoned unnecessary stuff that they truly don’t want or need and should get rid of to make room for the next renter.

Bailor: was the renter who abandoned these items.

The good news is that you can get rid of anything left behind or sell it if it has any worth, but you have to adhere to a particular normal procedure. Until reasonable efforts have been made to locate the renter, goods must be kept in a secure location. This can be done at the rental home or in a different location, like an extra space, a safe garage or shed, or a place of storage.

Serve the Tenant A Schedule 1 Notice

According to Schedule 1 of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, a landlord is required to give notice to a tenant before disposing of any items left behind in a property. 

If the tenant is still intending to retrieve his belongings, this notification should be delivered to his present residence (if it is known). To ensure that the notice is easily seen if the tenant returns, it is sensible to affix it to the inside of a window close to the front entrance.

The following details must be included in the notice:

  • Where the items are located
  • Where the items will be sold if they are to be sold
  • Notification that should a sale occur, the costs of handling and storing the item would be taken from the selling proceeds.
  • A list of the stored things

All notices shall be delivered by recorded delivery.

How long before you should give the tenant notice?

The standard notice period for the tenant to collect their belongings is 21 days, however, you are allowed to offer longer.

You must make reasonable efforts to get in touch with the tenant if you don’t know their forwarding address. Speak with friends or relatives (if known), and if you have their contact information, communicate on social media. Another choice is to use a no-find, no-fee tracing company. Since they will have access to government databases, they have a better chance of finding the tenant. If the tenant doesn’t claim the items, you can deduct the cost of this type of service from the proceeds of any sale of the tenant’s possessions.

You run the danger of facing a civil lawsuit from a former tenant who later accuses you of illegally selling or damaging their property if you don’t make an effort to get in touch with them.

Preventing Issues With Left-Behind Items

Prior to giving them a tenancy agreement, make sure to ask your tenant for a next of kin contact. This makes it simpler to find them if they leave behind tany items at the property at the conclusion of the tenancy or if you have to evict them.

Verify that your tenancy agreement contains a provision that expressly indicates that any items left behind will be sold or disposed of after 21 days.

Keep in mind to conduct the check-out inspection on the day your tenants are supposed to leave. Verify they intend to take everything with them if you notice there is still a tonne of things laying around, and remind them of the repercussions if they don’t.

And last, issues like this need to be avoided through an effective tenant referencing system. It’s reasonable to assume that a tenant could do the same to you if they have already done something similar to a previous landlord.

Don’t want to worry about all these? Let us handle it all. Seraph can manage from tenant referencing to serving notices on your behalf without any hassle. Contact a member of the team for more information.