My tenant has left. What do I with the stuff they left in my property?

My tenant has left. What do I with the stuff they left in my property?

A lot of this will depend on the sort of goods you have been left as custodian of. If your tenant has left you a vintage egg and half an inch of milk in a bottle at the back of the fridge, you are probably safe to pop it in the bin, comfortable in the knowledge they won’t be holding you ransom for it in weeks to come. 

Try and give it back! 

However, officially, if your tenant has officially handed possession of the property back to you, but left anything of theirs in your property, you do have a legal obligation to take care of their possessions until you can get them back to them or you have disposed of them safely (having warned the tenant that they will be binned on this date). 

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This can be very frustrating, especially if you don’t know where the tenant has moved to. Do try all channels though – phone, email, previous letting agent – and if you have any contact details of a next of kin, or guarantor, this can be a good place to start for tracking someone down. 

Can a landlord throw out tenant belongings UK?

Whilst it may be tempting to dispose of the lot (or pop it on Facebook marketplace), it is a civil offence to do so under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. Your ex-tenant would be entirely within their rights to bring a civil claim against you if you binned their priceless Sports Direct mug – admittedly the claim is limited to the resale value of the goods, however, unless you are confident that what you are handling is definitely not a priceless vintage piece, this is very rarely worth the risk. 

How long does a landlord have to store a tenants belongings?

If you cannot get hold of your tenant, yes, you will be left having to store any possessions. And as a landlord, you are responsible for any damage caused to a tenants belongings while they are under your care (just like your property is whilst it is under their care), so you can’t just bung them in a leaky shed and forget about them either… Make sure you catalogue everything that you are storing, with photographs and an inventory, so that you are able to prove that everything leaves your care in the same condition it entered it in. 

Does it mean I have to store them forever? 

No. You can notify your ex-tenant publicly that the goods with be destroyed after X amount of time. You need to be reasonable with the timeframe, 28 days is not unrealistic, and the public posting should be somewhere that the owner of the goods has half a chance of seeing it. A lamppost or prominent sign board in the area of the property is not unreasonable, and a note directly outside the property would be very advisable. Once the time in the notice has lapsed, you are then within your rights to dispose of the goods. 

You can also tackle this issue within your tenancy agreement, noting the time in which you are willing to store abandoned goods. You should still follow the same procedure outlined here, but it does offer a belt and braces approach, should an ex-tenant question your actions further down the line. 

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