Tenants abandoning or vacating a premises during their tenancy and leaving their goods behind is a common problem for landlords.
The landlords have a legal obligation to take care of the uncollected goods and in tort becomes an involuntary bailee with the duty to act reasonably in relation to the uncollected possessions.
The law that deals with a tenants uncollected goods is the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. Reasonable attempts must be made to contact the tenants, it is important the landlord or agent keeps records of attempts made to contact the tenants.
The Act provides that where all reasonable efforts to trace the owners of the goods have been made and failed, the landlord can sell the uncollected goods. However, where the owner of the goods is traced, notice must be given to them explaining that the goods may be disposed of or sold, how they can arrange to collect their goods.
The notice must provide a period within which the goods must be collected, once the notice period lapses, if the goods have not been collected and no arrangement to collect them has been made by the owner; the landlord may proceed to dispose of or sell the goods.
How to lawfully dispose of or sell uncollected goods
Make every effort to trace the tenant/s to their new address or contact them through any forwarding address you may have.
If s debt is owed to the landlord by the owner of the uncollected goods, you must keep goods for 3 months before disposing of them. If you are not owed money a reasonable period, typically 28 days is acceptable before selling the goods.
Write to the tenant by registered post or recorded delivery with a legal notice. This will notify them that the goods are available for collection and that they will be kept for up to three months.
Make sure your notice clearly identifies you as the landlord and gives full contact details of the landlord or landlords agent.
If the goods remain unclaimed after 3 months you can sell them to a buyer, who will receive good title to them. The original owner will therefore lose all rights to the goods.
Once you have covered your expenses in this process and any rent arrears etc, any proceeds left over will belong to the original owner – your tenant, if they should turn up and claim within six years.
Abandoned Goods Clause for AST‘s
You can provide Notice by way of a clause within the tenancy agreement as to what action would be taken in such an event, such a clause however does not cease the requirement to make reasonable attempts to contact the tenants in such circumstances.
A clause as below in a tenancy will greatly assist any landlord or agent in the above circumstances:
The landlord may remove, store and if not collected within 30 days dispose of any furniture or goods which the tenant fails to remove from the property upon vacating the let property whether or not the fixed term has ended. The tenant shall be responsible for all reasonable costs which the landlord may incur. The landlord shall be entitled to deduct such costs from any monies lawfully due to the tenant.
If you are in dispute with the tenants about any aspect of the goods, it is recommended that you do not sell the goods until this dispute is resolved.
Abandoning property leaving goods behind is a common problem for landlords. This article provides a brief guide for landlords and agents to follow in respect of uncollected goods.