What to do if your tenant doesn’t take all their property when they leave
Landlords’ rights are never as clear-cut as you might assume. For example, a landlords rights don’t allow you to enter your buy-to-let property whenever you want.
The common problem is that a tenant leaves property behind when they vacate a buy-to-let property. You need to get the property ready for viewing and to let to a new tenant. But that ugly bedside cabinet set is an eyesore. However, not so much of an eyesore as the moth-eaten sofa the tenant appears to have abandoned. You throw them away and have the property cleaned professionally. New tenants settle in.
For a few months, all seems well in your world as a landlord. Then the previous tenant comes knocking at your door. He wants his possessions back. Particularly the bedside cabinets. It turns out they are worth a few quid. The tenant just saw the same set on television. They had been valued at £3,000 on Antiques Roadshow. Suddenly you’re in the hole for a few thousand pounds.
So, what are your landlord’s rights if a tenant leaves property behind at the end of a tenancy period? And what actions should you take if you want to throw away or sell the tenant’s abandoned belongings?
When you empty your buy-to-let, beware
After the tenant has left, it’s not unusual to find items left behind. Whether these are a kid’s plastic football or a valuable antique dresser, your obligations are the same. Any item left behind is still the property of the tenant. The rule of ‘finders keepers’ doesn’t come into play.
Usually, you will have to return the belongings to the tenant. If you don’t and throw them away, you could become the subject of a claim against you made by the tenant. In a case brought by a tenant against a landlord in 2009, the tenant was awarded £6,515 for unrecovered belongings which he had left in his home. Also, the defendants had to pay damages which totalled £10,000.
So, if a tenant leaves belongings behind, never throw them away! You can charge for the cost of clearing them out of the property, but you must follow the legal process.
Know the law when you clear a property of a tenant’s goods
If you want to get rid of belongings left behind, you can. But you must follow a defined procedure. It is set out in a law called the ‘Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977’.
You’ll need to send a letter to the tenant explaining that you intend to dispose of (or sell) the belongings left behind. In the letter, you must:
- Detail the belongings that you hold and where they are held.
- Tell the tenant the date on which you intend to sell the goods. Don’t think you can get away with a short-notice period on this. You must give ample opportunity for the tenant to collect their belongings – say at least two to four weeks.
You must also let the tenant know where they can contact you to discuss their belongings.
Send the letter by recorded delivery, and keep a copy of it, too.
What if you don’t know where the tenant has moved to?
Before you dispose of any of the tenant’s belongings, you must show that you made reasonable efforts to contact them. Usually, this means using tracing agents. If the tracing agent cannot find the tenant, keep their report. It should protect you from any subsequent claim by the tenant, and allow you to dispose of the belongings.
What happens when you sell the tenant’s belongings?
If you do sell any of the tenant’s belongings which they left behind, you don’t get to keep the money. Well, not all of it. While you are allowed to deduct certain costs, the proceeds of the sale belong to the tenant – in the same way, that any property held would. The costs you can deduct are:
- The cost of selling the belongings. It might be auction commission, advertising costs, delivery charges, etc.
- Any outstanding rent owed to you.
- Any other money owed to you by the tenant.
Keeping landlords safe from claims against them
We take every effort to ensure that any belongings left behind when a tenant vacates a property are dealt with to the letter of the law. We’ll keep all the necessary paperwork on file, and our legal team is experienced in handling this sort of situation. Also, our tenant vacating process helps to reduce the occurrence of belongings being left behind.
Our landlord clients tell us it’s comforting to know that, should a tenant leave belongings behind, their investment property manager knows exactly what to do, how, and when. Contact Ezytrac today on +44 1522 503 717 and discuss the other benefits of using Ezytrac as your investment property manager.
Yours in effortless property management,