Clearing out the tenant’s goods
Property that the tenant leaves behind still belongs to the tenant and normally should be returned to the tenant.
If you throw away property belonging to the tenant which subsequently turns out to be of value, you may be subject to a claim from the tenant for damages.
If the tenant does leave things behind when they leave, you may charge for the cost of clearing them out of your property.
Torts (Interference with Goods) Act
The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 states that the landlord can dispose of goods left behind - as long as you follow a certain procedure.
Firstly, send a letter by recorded delivery to the tenant stating that you intend to sell/dispose of the goods and give the following information:
- Your name and address (where you can be contacted regarding the tenant's collection)
- Details of the items held
- The place where they're held
- The date on which you intend to sell the goods (this must give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to collect the goods, say two-four weeks)
You must make sure you keep a copy of this letter.
If you're concerned your tenant won't accept the recorded delivery, consider hand delivering the letter so they can't claim they didn't receive it.
Try to contact the tenant
If you don't have the address for the tenant, you'll be able to sell or dispose of the goods if you're able to show that you made reasonable attempts to locate them.
This is best done by instructing tracing agents. Many will offer a ‘no-trace-no-fee’ arrangement.
Providing you keep the the tracing agent’s report stating that he can't find the tenant, you should be safe from a claim from the tenant if you sell or dispose of goods left behind.
Selling the tenant's goods
If any items are sold, the proceedings of sale are, strictly speaking, the property of the tenant.
But you're entitled to deduct the cost of the sale, any rent arrears outstanding or other money due to you from any money you make from selling the tenant's goods.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a How to Rent guide, which includes some useful tips for both landlords and tenants.