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So the issue all landlords despise has happened. A tenant has moved out but left some of their belongings in your property. You’re now unsure what to do next. From this moment onwards, your actions have to follow law and must stand up to scrutiny – the tenant can still make a claim against you for damages. Follow our advice below and the situation will hopefully be resolved with ease.
As soon as you see the items left behind, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether it was left as rubbish or simply forgotten. DO NOT be tempted to throw any of this away, sell it or neglect the issue. Everything still legally belongs to the tenant and they retain rightful ownership – even after they’ve left it behind. If you throw away any items and they hold value, you’ll be liable for damages. There is however, a silver lining to this terribly frustrating situation. You may be able to charge the tenant for the cost of clearing your property and possibly any storage afterwards. Be sure you follow the right procedures for these.
Thankfully, you do have some legal backing in this situation. The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 allows you to dispose of any belongings left behind, on the condition that you follow a specific course of action first.
A written letter is the best place to start. We recommend doing this via recorded delivery so you can guarantee the tenant receives it. Explain in your letter that you wish to dispose/sell the items. You must inform them on how to contact you to retrieve them. As well as this, you should include a detailed description of the items, where they are being stored and when you’ll be selling/disposing of them. Be sure to allow the tenant enough time to take preventative measures. Remember, this could all be a genuine mistake. You should give your tenant the chance to rectify the situation. Keep a copy of the letter in your records.
Don’t worry, a resolution can still be found. You need to be able to prove that you’ve made a reasonable attempt to get in touch with the tenant. We recommend using a tracing agent to track down the tenant’s address. These companies usually won’t charge you if they can’t find the individual’s location. Keep the report that states they can’t find your tenant and you’re good to go ahead with the disposal.
You’ve followed the strict procedure, you’re now ready to sell the items and pocket the cash. Unfortunately the money’s not actually yours to keep, it belongs to the tenant. This is infuriating, we know. Thankfully, if there have been any charges or costs incurred throughout the process, then you’re good to go ahead and reimburse yourself.
Want more rental advice? Give the Department for Communities and Local Government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide a read.
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