Abandoned Possessions – My tenants have vacated the property and have left behind quite a few possessions. Some of these items appear quite valuable, so I would hesitate to dispose of them as rubbish. How do I deal with this situation?
Items left behind in rented property present the landlord or letting agent with a real problem, especially if it is not possible to trace the tenants quickly and the items require removals specialists and then storage.
If the property has been abandoned before the tenancy ends it is always safest to obtain a court possession order to avoid any consequences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Courts take this very seriously and fines can be heavy.
However, where goods are concerned the Torts (Interference with Good) Act 1977 applies. Dealing with abandoned goods can be a real hassle, but failing to deal with the situation to comply with the law can be costly.
A good inventory (ideally by an independent firm) is now very important, especially when the tenancy despot scheme is involved, but also to distinguish the landlord’s possessions from those of the tenant.
Abandoned goods are often quite worthless but this does not preclude the tenant returning at some later date claiming they are worth a fortune, or as is often the case, that they have been damaged. Therefore, before anything is moved, a fresh inventory of the tenant’s possessions should be made, ideally with full photographic evidence, statement of condition and an estimate of value.
Where it is determined for sure that items are indeed pure rubbish, then always get a written value estimate from any clearance company you use. Items which are obviously of some monetary value, or where they may be of sentimental value to the tenant, should be put in safe storage.
To comply with the law, landlords or agents should make every effort to contact the tenant to return the possessions, but failing that should keep the goods for up to three months, or whatever period is stated in the tenancy agreement.
After this time the goods can be sold and the proceeds used to pay for storage, any costs involved in attempted tracing, and finally to go towards rent arrears and any damage to the property.
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