Tenants abandoning premises during their tenancy and leaving their goods behind is a growing common problem for landlords. Not only is it a problem because many landlords obtain incorrect advice as to what their rights are in regards to the selling or disposal of those goods, but also because taking possession of the premises is contentious in that the tenants goods being left at the property provides the tenants with a potential claim (although erroneous) that they have been unlawfully evicted, contrary to section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (as amended). Before reading the following it is important to understand there is not legislation directly dealing with this issue, the below information we beleive is the closest legislation that could apply, with that being said we have experience many district judges stating that tenants should be give 14 days notice to collect their belongings before they are disposed of which is contrary to the information below.
Notice of Collection or Intended Disposal/Sale
If your tenants have abandoned the let property and left their goods behind, they may intend to collect them or they may have abandoned them, for which reasons the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 provides that a person in this instance must act reasonably before disposing or selling of what may seem to be abandoned goods. 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.
Make attempts to:
Trace the tenants,
Obtain their forwarding address,
E-mail, Text, Call the tenants,
Contact family members if you have their details,
Contact the guarantor (if there is one), and
Make all other reasonable attempts to contact the tenants
Where the tenants are in debt with the landlord, the landlord can only sell the uncollected goods after they are unclaimed for at least 3 months, following which the goods can be sold by which the original owner(s) loses their rights to those goods. Once the landlord has recovered their costs (e.g. rent arrears) from the sale of the goods, any proceeds left over will belong to the original owner (the tenant(s)) providing the tenant makes such a claim within six years.
A Notice must also be provided which we advise is posted through the letterbox of the abandoned property, attach a copy to the front and rear entrances providing no less than 28 days to:
Allow the tenant(s) to collect their goods (make it clear how they can collect their goods and who to contact), and
Notify the tenants of intended disposal of the goods after the notice period given expires if they are not collected, or if applicable
Notify the tenants the goods will be kept for a minimum of 3 months, following which if they are uncollected the goods will be sold and their rights to those goods will cease from thereon
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.