The tenancy ends and the tenant vacates the property – but instead of taking everything with them, they leave some of their belongings behind.
In this situation, it may be tempting to assume that they have abandoned their possessions and that you can do what you want with them. But it’s more complex than that.
Don’t Throw Anything Away
Don’t simply throw away their belongings or sell them. This may be the temptation because you want to prepare the property for the next tenants.
According to Which?, the belongings that the tenant leaves behind still belong to them. If you throw anything away, they might end up making a claim for damages. They might have genuinely forgotten to take something with them, for example.
Contact the Tenant
Always try and make contact with the tenant before making any decisions. The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act sets out how you should act in this situation.
It states that you should send a letter by recorded delivery to your tenant and keep a copy for yourself. In the letter, make it clear that you are planning to dispose of or sell the goods.
List the belongings that the tenant has left behind, and state where you are holding them. You should also provide a date on which you plan to sell or dispose of them, giving the tenant at least a few weeks’ notice.
You should also provide them with your name and address so they can contact you.
If clearing out the items will involve costs on your part, you could inform the tenant that you will be charging them for this. This might encourage them to come back and pick up the items themselves.
What If You Cannot Contact the Tenant?
You might not be able to contact the tenant once they have left the property. However, you must still show that you made a reasonable attempt to make contact. There are tracing agents who can help to locate people, so you might want to use such a service.
If you are still unable to find the tenant, keep any documents showing that you put in the effort to locate them.
Selling the Goods
If you decide to sell the goods, the money that you make from the sale still belongs to the tenant, so don’t spend it. However, you may be able to deduct something for the cost of the sale (e.g. auction fees) as well as rent arrears if owed.
Speak to Your Solicitor
If you have any doubts about the process, make sure you speak to your solicitor, and they will be able to provide you with the correct process to follow. That way, you can clear out your property without worrying about facing a claim in the future.