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How Should a Landlord Tackle Tenant’s Abandoned Property?

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As a landlord your main concern is that you have tenants in your property in order to stay financially secure, so a quick turnover is important if your tenants decide to leave.

But what are the implications with left behind property? You don’t want to break any laws by discarding the property, but what is the process of removing it?

There are many reasons that a tenant may decide to leave the property, whether they have abandoned it or moved out, they can later press charges if the landlord hasn’t dealt with their possessions properly.

It may seem rather unfair that the landlord does in fact have to keep the possessions safe until they can prove that they made reasonable efforts to return the property to the rightful owner. This is because the Interference with Goods Act states that abandoned property is an indication that the tenant may have plans to return to the property.

However this can become a problem when a landlord needs their rent and a sofa has been left behind, preventing new tenants from moving in. So what exactly should you do to show ‘reasonable effort’?

Contact the Tenant-

Having a contract with the tenant, it is safe to assume you have a contact number, so the best thing you can do is to contact the tenant to see what the situation is. It is best to carry out tenant checks and have them complete an application form so that you can trace family members, employers and banks in the event this happens.

It is also best to have written evidence, but at this moment in time it is safe to say you can’t guess where they are, so your first port of call could be to ask their current location. You can try tracing the tenants by creating local newspaper advertisements.

If the tenant cannot be traced after your best efforts, the Interference with Goods Act allows the landlord to sell or dispose of the left behind property.

Serve a Notice-

If you manage to trace the tenant, you will have to serve a 3 month notice before removing the goods. This should explain that you plan to dispose of the items however you have arranged a date for the items to be collected by the tenant, after that date the items can be disposed or sold.

Make it clear where they can collect them from and that the letter has been sent by you, the landlord, with full contact details.

If the tenant contacts you disputing that you cannot sell or dispose of the property because it belongs to them, you cannot take action until the dispute is resolved.

In some cases it can be tempting for a landlord to settle debts by selling the property without following this process, however if the tenant feels that the goods was valuable or had sentimental value to themselves then you can face repaying double the possessions worth back to the tenant.

Value the Possessions-

If you feel that the left behind possessions are next to little or no value to yourself or the tenant you can get a written estimation from a professional, such as an auctioneer, and dispose of them.

To support your valuation of the possessions you should take photographic evidence so that it can later be proved if necessary.

If the possessions seem of a higher value, such as jewellery or vehicle, after your best efforts of attempting to contact the tenant, you can sell these. You can use these profits to cover any rent arrears or damages to the property; however any remaining proceeds will have to be kept for the tenant to collect for up to 6 years.

During this process you may have lost rent or be threatened with court by your tenant for handling their goods. If you have taken out Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses Insurance with UKinsuranceNET we can cover these costs. For more information on protecting your income, you can read What Measures Should You Be Taking To Protect Your Income.

Another option would be to store these possessions in a storage unit while this process is underway so that you can get new tenants into the property in the meantime. This does means however that the costs of the storage facility will not be covered under your Rent Guarantee Insurance.

We have answered a lot of your questions about Rent Guarantee and Legal Expenses in our FAQ’s section so that you can understand the benefits of this cover more.

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