Can I EBAY my tenant’s possession left behind?

6 10 2011

Tenant’s leaving possessions behind can be a real headache for landlords. Our legal team has dealt with some enquiries with regards this and below is how this can be dealt with.

Unfortunately the law does not allow the Landlord’s to sell or dispose of the items as they do not belong to them, even if the tenant owes them money.  So the Landlord’s stuck with stuff  they can’t get rid of. The legal term for someone in their position is an ‘involuntary bailee’.

But it is not all bad news. There IS a way to deal with it. This is under a little known act called the Torts Interference with Goods Act 1977.

What this act says is that the Landlord should serve a letter on the owner of the goods (i.e. the tenant) giving them a list of the things they have and telling them where they can collect them from and what they need to do.  The Landlord can move the items out of the property and keep them elsewhere if necessary, for example  if there is need to re-let the property. 

The letter should ask the owner of the goods to come and take them away within a specified period of time (say 21 days), and give notice that if they do not do this, the goods will be sold or otherwise disposed of under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. 

The act says that the letter should be served by recorded delivery or registered post (although to serve it by hand is an excellent option as they can’t avoid it by refusing to accept delivery).  Note that the act was passed in 1977, before we had texts or emails, so contacting the tenant by text or email will not be sufficient, although there is no harm in doing this as well.

If the tenant fails to collect the items, the Landlord can then dispose of them. Although if they have any value, they have a duty to get the best price possible and hold this for the tenant (or offset it against any rent arrears).

If the Landlord has no idea where the tenant is, the act covers this too.  So long as the Landlord has made reasonable efforts to find the owner of the goods, they can dispose of them without sending the letter, again getting the best price for items which have any value and keeping the money safe for the owner of the goods.

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