• Can I dispose of property my tenant left behind?

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Can I dispose of property my tenant left behind?

It's not an uncommon scenario: your tenant moves out, hands over the keys, but when you go to check over the property in preparation for your new tenants, they’ve left a pile of their stuff behind. What do you do?

Unfortunately, even if it looks like rubbish, it's not alright just to dump it. You'll need your tenant's permission first. The slightly better news is that you are allowed to remove the items from your property and store them, so at least you can get on with re-letting the flat.

You really need to get hold of the tenant and get their permission to dispose of the goods. You should get this in writing rather than just verbally. If you can't reach them by informal means, you should write to them by recorded delivery, asking them to collect the goods within a reasonable period (say within 4 weeks), and giving your contact details and details of the goods and where they are held. You can advise them in this same letter that if the goods are not collected, you will sell or dispose of them. Keep a copy of the letter and the recorded delivery slip so you can prove you've tried to contact them.

If you don't have a forwarding address (and you should always try to get a forwarding address!), you still need to be able to show that you've made reasonable efforts to trace the tenant before you're allowed to dispose of the goods. Tracing agents offer "no-find, no-fee" arrangements and might be your best option in this case.

And if you go through all this and still can't contact them, you still have a duty to dispose of the goods in the most advantageous way possible. If they have any value, you should sell rather than dump them; any monies raised would, strictly speaking, be the tenant's, though you would be entitled to deduct any costs associated with the sale (e.g. auctioneer's or eBay fees, advertising costs). Again, keep a record of what was done in case the tenant later turns up demanding their goods - it does happen!

If you want to read that in legalese, the relevent legislation is Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, section 12.

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