My tenant has left some possessions behind, what should I do?

by Ed Firmin

Posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 10:00

So, you’re in between tenants, and you go into the property and discover that your old tenant has left a few personal belongings behind, what should you do?

The tempting thing would be to throw it away, after all, it can’t be that important if they left it behind, surely?

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. You should try and return it before you turf it out, as you could be liable if the tenant claims for the cost of the items. In addition, landlords are under a legal obligation to take care of a tenant’s possessions.

There are rules to follow, so before you get the black bags out, you must ensure you have done all of the below first:

  • Send a letter with proof of posting to the tenant stating that they must collect their possessions, otherwise you will be selling/getting rid of them. This letter must give contact details where the tenant can get in touch with you, and give details of what items have been left behind and where they are. Then give them a date when they need to collect the goods by, giving them a reasonable time in which to do this (usually around 21 days)
  • If you don’t have a forwarding address for the tenant, then you should be able to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable attempts to track them down. You can hire agents to undertake searches for you if you don’t have the time or resources to be able to do that yourself
  • You can charge your ex tenants for the cost of storage, removal and sale of their property, so could potentially sell the property to cover this charge. However, any additional money made would still be owed to the tenant. If you can’t trace them, then technically, that money is owed to HM Treasury

Left possessions are a headache for landlords because of the duty that it places on them to look after the property. They want to ensure they have done everything they can before getting rid of the property. It’s a pain, but ensure that you have covered all bases, and if you really aren’t sure of your obligations, then it’s probably wise to seek legal advice, especially if the possessions are of some value.

The best way to prevent this happening is to ensure you have contact details of relatives or friends of the tenant, right from the beginning of the tenancy, so you always have a second contact in the event of the tenant not leaving a forwarding address.

If you’d like some advice on what to do in this situation, please get in touch and I can help, or point you in the right direction of someone who can!


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