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Taking care of tenant possessions

By Eamonn Hogan on 25/08/2014 with comments

A lot of landlords ask us what they can do if a tenant who has moved out leaves goods and possessions in their property. It’s not an uncommon situation at the end of an AST period and is frequently the case when a tenant does a moonlight flit and disappears.

In any of those circumstances, landlords remain under a legal obligation to take care of their tenant's possessions. Failure to carry out this obligation by moving or transporting items, storing them or disposing of them can result in financial penalties being imposed on the landlord.

So what can you do if a tenant leaves goods and possessions in your property?

Legally disposing of uncollected tenant's goods isn't complex, but it can be a time consuming process. First of all, make every effort to trace the tenant's new address or otherwise contact them through any forwarding address or telephone number or email address you may have.

This reinforces the importance of doing comprehensive tenant screening checks, taking inventories and ensuring that the tenant has completed a satisfactory application form. As a landlord, you should always be in a position to contact your tenant either directly or through an alternative contact even if the property is abandoned.

Assuming you do locate a forwarding address, you should then write to the tenant using registered post or recorded delivery so there can be no dispute about receipt of the documents. If you have no success in finding a forwarding address, you could place a notice at the rented premises, although be careful where you post this notice as you don’t want to run the risk of 'advertising' an empty property to squatters.

You should make sure your notice, or letter, clearly identifies you as the landlord and gives all your necessary contact details so the tenant has no excuse for not getting in touch with you. The notice should inform the tenant that their goods are available for collection and will be kept for a reasonable period (say at least a month), though not necessarily at the property itself.

If the goods remain unclaimed after this period you can sell them and the tenant will at that point lose all rights to the goods. As the landlord, you are entitled to recover any expenses you incurred for storage and arranging the sale as well as any rent arrears that may be due from the proceeds of selling the tenant's goods. Any amount left over left will belong to the tenant and, provided they contact you or turn up within six years of the date of selling the goods, you have to pay those monies due to them.