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Who’s for Left overs…?

Who’s for Left overs…? belongings

Most letting agents and landlords will have come across at some point the unfortunate scenario where a tenant leaves a property but decides to leave various belongings at the rented property – sometimes leaving behind vast amounts of belongings and sometimes what looks like junk but the question that prevails for lettings agents and landlords is what to do with an ex tenant’s belongings – What happens if the tenant reappears and demands their belongings? Is there any liability or is it the tenants’ loss?

There are usually three possibilities –

Dispose of left belongings – bin or sell! Use them as you please Make efforts to return left belongings to tenants

Unfortunately, whilst many would consider it the tenant’s loss for leaving belongings behind, answer (a) or (b) would equal nil points and potentially a big financial loss!

The correct answer would be (c)

The legal protection given to tenants is governed by legislation by way of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 and the common law duty not to be reckless and to act with reasonable care. Legally, in a nutshell the letting agent or landlord becomes what is known as a “bailee” of the tenants’ belongings with a duty to act reasonably in regard to the goods. There is then a duty to look after the goods. After all reasonable efforts have been made to contact the tenants, the letting agent or landlord can then dispose of the tenants’ belongings. If there is any “profit” after the sale of goods, the tenant can claim that for a period of 6 years!

Always remember that if a tenant isn’t responding to calls or correspondence to collect leftover goods, the matter isn’t always black and white! Consider the possibilities – the tenant may be on holiday, in hospital or even in prison!

Don’t forget (unless you’re an expert in antiques!) – What appears worthless to one person on the face of it – may be worth thousands in reality!

The key for any letting agent or landlord is to protect their position. The following key action points should be followed

Always try to get a forwarding address and up to date contact details of tenants or details of next of kin Detail all items left behind with detailed descriptions Photograph all items as they were left – before moving! Detail the items on the check out inventory Make all reasonable efforts to contact the tenants – keep copies of letters (send with proof of postage as a minimum – completely free service!), keep a telephone log and emails (retain read and delivery reports) Store possessions with care Do have a clause in tenancy agreement about how long goods are retained for Give a final warning to tenants before disposing of goods If no retention period in contained in the tenancy, dispose of good after a “reasonable period” (usually 3months) If the goods are sold, retain records of sold price and expenses, should the tenant reappear Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry as disposing of what you may consider junk or not your problem, may cost you dearly!