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 presume that the possessions left by the tenant are now automatically theirs, however this is not the case. Possessions can often look like unwanted rubbish therefore landlords will simply dispose of them. Landlords need to be wary of undertaking this course of action and should take care to avoid any potential claim against them by a former tenant in relation to the possessions.

It is important for landlords to be aware that where a tenant has left possessions behind, the landlord will become an involuntary bailee whilst the possessions or goods are under his 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, a landlord has a responsibility to take reasonable care for the items and cannot simply dispose of them.

It is important for a landlord to take photographs of the property and the possessions as soon as they regain possession.  This is to show the state and condition of both the property and the possessions if there is a dispute at a later date.

The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 states what the landlord may and may not do 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.  However, it is important for a landlord to be aware of the fact that if the items have a value, the landlord is required to sell the items and obtain a reasonable price for them.  The landlord then must account to the tenant for the sale proceeds less the cost of the sale and any monies owed to them.

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, please do not hesitate our Landlord and Tenant team, headed by Partner Fiona Squire, on 01803 403403 or [email protected]