Landlords rights when tenants’ possessions are left in a property

Landlords can find themselves in a difficult situation when their tenant has vacated the property but left possessions behind.

Many landlords assume that the possessions left by the tenant are now automatically theirs and as they can often look like unwanted rubbish many landlords will simply dispose of them. You need to be careful of what action you take to avoid any potential claim against by the former tenant in relation to the possessions.

You should be aware that where a tenant has left possessions behind, the landlord becomes an involuntary bailee whilst the possessions or goods are under their control. An involuntary bailee is an individual who has, without giving their consent, found themselves in possession of goods belonging to another individual. As such, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care for the items and cannot simply dispose of them.

We would advise any landlords who find themselves in this position to follow a few simple steps;

  1. Take photographs of the property and the possessions as soon as you regain possession of the property. This is to show the state and condition of both the property and the possessions if there is a dispute at a later date.
  2. Refer to the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 which sets out what can be done legally with the possessions. Under this Act, a landlord can serve notice which then requires a tenant to collect the possessions failing which a landlord can legally dispose of them in accordance with the Act.
  3. Be aware of the fact that if the items have a value and you are required to sell the items, you must obtain a reasonable price for them. You must give the tenant the sale proceeds less the cost of the sale.

A failure to follow this procedure may lead to a landlord having a claim made against them for the value of the items.

For further guidance and advice, email Fiona Hannaford, call on 01803 403403 or complete a contact form for a call back.