My tenant has left belongings. Can I dispose of them?
14 August 2018 by Lawrence Adams
One of the trickiest questions we get after a successful residential eviction is this: “we got possession of the property back today, but the tenant has left belongings in the Property, what do we do?”.
It’s a question we get at the end of the majority of cases and it is always one of our most difficult to advise upon.
On a strict interpretation of the law, these items remain the property of the tenant. If you throw them away and, subsequently, they turn out to be of value, you might end up being the subject of a claim from the tenant for damages. The landlord becomes what is known as an ‘involuntary bailee’. Often this leaves our clients with a commercial decision to make.
The lifeline for a Landlord comes in the form of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 which provides a procedure by which the Landlord can dispose of the goods that are left behind by the tenant. The act requires Landlords make reasonable arrangements to trace the tenant before any disposal can take place.
The procedure normally requires a letter to be sent to the tenant if the tenant’s address is known. In the event that it is not, a notice should be attached to the property to make sure it can be seen. The notice should require the tenant to collect the items and confirm:
- where you are keeping the items
- where the sale of the items will take place
- if the items are sold, the fact that sale and storage costs will be deducted from the proceeds of sale
- which goods will remain
The notice normally requires a reasonable time to be given for the tenant to arrange collection. If the notice expires after that reasonable time, the Landlord is satisfied that they have taken all reasonable steps to locate the tenant and the tenant has not collected the items, the Landlord should then be able to dispose of the items.
If the items are sold, the Landlord may deduct any debts from the proceeds before returning any balance to the tenant.
This can be a particularly tricky area of law. We advise on it regularly and, should you need advice on the process or on the drafting of the notice, we are only too happy to help.
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