It is question that I am often asked and can cause landlords more difficulties and time having already, on some occasions, gone through the difficult procedure in getting a tenant to leave their premises in the first place.
Landlords are often faced with the issue of how to deal with belongings left behind by their former tenants at the end of their tenancies. The risk to the landlord of disposing of items of obvious rubbish may be small, especially where a tenant has vacated voluntarily at the end of the term or surrender their tenancy. There may, however, be a greater risk in either of the following situations:
- Where larger or more valuable items are left behind.
- Where the landlord has forfeited a lease or enforced a possession order.
A tenant is generally obliged to remove their goods from the premises at the end of the term. A lease or tenancy agreement will often expressly oblige the tenant to remove any goods at the end of the term. Some leases will also clarify what the landlord can do with any goods that may be left on the premises at the end of the term.
If goods are left on the premises once the lease has come to an end, however it ends, the items remain the former tenant’s property. The exception to this is where the former tenant has abandoned his/her belongings. In the absence of express terms in a lease, the landlord is left with the problem of deciding what to do with these.
If the tenant has moved out and abandoned the goods, the landlord will usually be free to deal with those goods as it sees fit. If the former tenant has not abandoned the goods, however, the retention and sale or disposal of the goods by the landlord may give the tenant grounds for bringing a claim against the landlord.
A useful tool for the landlord to use is to serve a notice under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 (“TIGA”). This imposes an obligation to collect the goods on the owner by giving notice and gives the person in possession the right to sell the goods if they are not collected.
The content of a notice would include that the goods are ready to collect, address as to where the goods are held and what amount if any are due to the landlord for storing the goods. If the tenant fails to respond or refuses to collect the goods then the Landlord can give a further notice of their intention to sell the goods under section 12(3) of the TIGA 1977. This notice would set out similar details as the first notice and include the date on or after which the landlord intends to sell the goods.
With both notices the landlord must give a reasonable opportunity to collect the goods. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each case.
For more information and advice on this and how this may affect you please contact Anton Bilinski who is able to guide you through this and act for you when a landlord or tenant dispute arises.
Chartered Legal Executive