Frequently, tenants leave goods after their tenancy has concluded or when they have abandon the premises during a tenancy. Uncollected goods and possessions left or abandoned in premises by tenants can pose a real problem for landlords. With both residential and commercial tenancies the value of the goods can sometimes be substantial.
The landlord is under a legal obligation to take care of tenant's possessions and in Tort becomes an involuntary bailee with a duty to act reasonably in regard to the goods left on the premises. The law relating to uncollected consumer goods is covered by the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977
The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 allows a landlord to sell goods left in a property if reasonable efforts to trace the tenant or owner of the goods fail. The Act further states that if the tenant is traced, the landlord must serve notice stating its intention to dispose of the items, how to arrange collection, and that disposal of the items will not begin until the notice has expired.
The obligation to adhere to this legislation can result in financial losses for the landlord as a result of:
• Moving and transporting the uncollected goods.
• Safe storage of the goods.
• Legal disposal of the goods.
If you have carried out your Tenant Screening checks carefully and the tenant has completed a satisfactory application form (link this back to documents page) you should always be in a position to contact the tenant, or a relative, even if the premises are abandoned.
You may like to consider adding a clause to your lease regarding the procedures you will take in the event of uncollected goods being left in the premises. It is suggested that such a clause will outline what deductions you will make from any proceeds left from the sale. Such a clause could be worded as:
"The landlord may remove, store and if not collected within 30 days, may sell or otherwise dispose of any furniture or goods which the tenant fails to remove from the property at the end of the tenancy. The tenant shall be responsible for all reasonable costs which the landlord may incur. The landlord shall be entitled to deduct such costs from any monies lawfully due to the tenant."
Remember to always check the wording of any clause you use to ensure that it adheres to the Torts Act 1977.
If you are in dispute with the tenants about any aspect of the goods, it is recommended that you do not sell the goods until this dispute is resolved. Any monies outstanding after the deduction of your reasonable costs belong to the tenant up until 6 years after the sale.
If you do not have such a clause, it is important that you correctly serve a legal notice regarding the uncollected goods.
• Make every effort to trace the tenant/s to their new address or contact them through any forwarding address you may have.
•If you are owed monies you must keep goods for 3 months before disposing of them. If you are not owed money a reasonable period, typically 28 days is acceptable before selling the goods.
• Write to the tenant by registered post or recorded delivery with a legal notice. This will notify them that the goods are available for collection and that they will be kept for up to three months.
• Make sure your notice clearly identifies you as the landlord and gives full contact details for yourself as landlord and include complete contact details.
• If the goods remain unclaimed after 3 months you can sell them to a buyer, who will receive good title to them. The original owner will therefore lose all rights to the goods.
• Once you have covered your expenses in this process and any rent arrears etc, any proceeds left over will belong to the original owner - your tenant, if they should turn up and claim within six years.
Author: Gary Wainman has been involved in property and letting for the past 4 years managing property lets and project managing refurbishments and complete renovations. Please do not hesitate to get in contact with him Gary Wainman care of Landlordzone.