In most eviction cases both tenants and squatters remove everything they own from the property when they leave. But there are some instances where the occupant has disappeared and left belongings behind in the property.
Can the Landlord dispose of them or does he have a legal liability to look after them?
The Landlord’s legal obligations
Under legislation (The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977), the abandoned goods still remain the property of the tenant. The landlord has an obligation to take care of the goods and make reasonable attempts to trace the tenant to return them.
Selling the goods
Under the same legislation, if the tenant breaks an arrangement to take delivery of the goods, or the landlord is unable to trace the former tenant, then the landlord is permitted to sell the goods, provided that he gives sufficient notice and has taken reasonable steps to trace the tenant.
The sale is normally done by auction and the landlord can deduct any costs he has incurred from the sale proceeds, for example any storage and sale costs. If there are rent arrears, the remaining sum may be used to offset these – provided that the correct procedures have been followed.
Giving notice to the tenant
There is a prescribed form of notice, which must comprise of the following:
- Be made in writing either by registered post or recorded delivery
- Specify the name and address of the tenant and give details of the goods and the address where they are currently being held
- State that the goods are ready to be delivered to the tenant
- Provide the place of sale and the date on or after which they will be sold. Should also provide notice that the costs will be deducted from the proceeds
A copy of the notice should also be attached to the property so it can be seen by the tenant.
There is no set notice period, just that it should give the tenant reasonable opportunity to take delivery of the goods. A notice period of 14 days is often cited by lawyers as being sufficient. However, should the tenant wish to demand payment for items such as sale or storage charges, then a minimum of three months’ notice is required.
Posted on January 8, 2016