What to do When a Tenant Leaves Belongings Behind

Once a tenant has been evicted or otherwise moved on to a new property, it is not unheard of for them to leave personal possessions. In most cases, these items are of no significant value, therefore as a landlord you may want to just throw the belongings in the bin. However, this is not advised and as a landlord you must deal with this issue professionally, following the correct legal protocol. 

A regular question in this situation is what to do when a tenant leaves belongings behind? In this post we will give you a guide on how to correctly dispose of any belongings left by a former tenant. 

What the law states

Any Goods and belongings left behind by previous tenants legally still belong to the tenant and are covered under The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. When goods are left behind, these belongings automatically become the landlord’s responsibility, making them an ‘involuntary bailee’ pending collection. 

Although The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 covers the previous tenant who has left the belongings, this act can also cover the landlord. Under this act, landlords are able to sell or dispose of any goods left behind, so long they have followed the correct steps and protocol.

Make every effort to contact the tenant

The first step any landlord should take when being left with a previous tenant’s belongings is to attempt to make contact. If you know the tenants new address, this makes the process much easier. However, there are other efforts that can be made to resume contact. 

If you no longer have any contact details for your ex-tenant, or if they are avoiding your contact, 

tracing agents can complete a search for your tenant. This gives more evidence in your attempt to find the individual. Here at Able investigations, we have a team ready to help you with tracking down your previous tenant. 

If you have exhausted all the above solutions for finding your ex-tenant then you are eligible to dispose of or sell the left belongings. 

Serve a schedule 1 notice 

You must serve a schedule 1 notice to the bailor. This will impose an obligation for the owner of the goods to come and collect them; which also notifies the owner of your intentions to dispose or sell the items if not collected by a certain date. 

The notice should be sent to the tenant’s current address (if known). It is also a good idea to attach this notice to the property, in the occurrence that the tenant returns to collect their goods. 

When issuing a schedule 1 notice, it must include the following:

  • The location of the leftover goods
  • Your intent with the items if not collected
  • A date in which you intend to sell or dispose of the items. 
  • Your name, contact details, and your preferred method of contact 
  • An item inventory 

Ensuring there is a record of any correspondence regarding the matter will leave you with a paper trail, in case the previous tenant attempts to state you have stolen or disposed of the items without following correct procedures. 


How long to give a tenant to collect leftover belongings

Giving the previous tenant enough of a notice period for collection is vital in this situation. It is customary to give the tenant 21 days or more to collect their goods. If all legally correct steps have been taken to contact the former tenant, and the notice period has ended, landlords can then dispose of the belongings. 

Photograph for inventory purposes 

There are a few precautions you can take to ensure you are covered in the event of a court case. 

One simple thing you can do that could work in your favour is having a photography inventory of the remaining items. Using a digital camera with a date and time stamp, take photos of all the belongings un-moved and untouched to show the state of the items to guarantee the ex-tenant can’t lie about their condition. Having photographic evidence also provides grounds for disposal of any unhygienic items left behind. 

Safely store the belongings

Another precaution we recommend taking is correctly storing the belongings. Using an insured and secure storage facility for the items will ensure that during the notice period no damage will happen to the items. In the event that the tenant comes and collects the goods, you can return them in the same condition you found them in. 

How to prevent the problem in future

When you are a landlord, there are certain things out of your control. However, there are procedures you can put into place before any problems arise. 

When someone new begins a tenancy with you, include a few things in your tenancy agreement to help prevent any issues. Firstly, make sure you ask your tenant for the contact details of a family member or a friend, so you still have contact if the tenant ever avoids contact.

Secondly, always check that your tenancy agreement includes a clause that states if any items are left at the property, you have the legal right to dispose of them after 21 days. 

Another precaution that you can take involves inspection. Completing a check-out inspection on the day the tenant moves out means you can guarantee they take all their belongings and also enforce the consequences if they don’t. 

Finally, use a tenant referencing system when selecting your tenants. If a tenant has previously acted this way, it is a fair assumption that they could do the same to you. 

In need of professional help? 

Tenancy evictions can be messy, having professional help on your side ensures you are legally following the correct protocol and procedure. Here at Able Investigations our team is here to help! Get in contact today for any tenancy issues. 



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