In most eviction cases, tenants and squatters remove everything they own from the property – and sometimes plenty of items they don’t own.

But there are instances where the occupant has disappeared and left belongings behind. So where does that leave the Landlord? Can the Landlord dispose of these items or does the Landlord have a legal liability to look after them?

Landlord’s legal obligations

The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 makes provision for abandoned goods under Section 12. The goods still remain the property of the tenant and the Landlord has an obligation to take care of the goods and make reasonable attempts to trace the tenant to return the goods. In our experience, it is quite normal for a Landlord to contact the tenant to invite the tenant to remove any left goods within 14 days of an eviction and indicate to the tenant that if they are not collected by arrangement, the items left will be disposed of.

Selling the goods

Under Section 12 of the 1977 Act, if the tenant breaks an arrangement to collect the goods or the Landlord is unable to trace the former tenant, the Landlord is permitted to sell the goods, provided he gives notice that he has taken reasonable steps to trace the tenant.

Sale is normally by auction and the Landlord is permitted to deduct from the sale proceeds costs he has incurred, for example storage and sale costs. If there are rent arrears the remaining sum may be used to offset these, provided the correct procedure has been followed.

Giving notice

There is a prescribed form of notice, which must:

  • Be in writing and sent either by registered post or recorded delivery;
  • Specify the name and address of the tenant and with details of the goods and address where they are held;
  • State that the goods are ready to be collected by the tenant;
  • The place of sale and the date on or after which they will be sold, advising the cost which will be deducted from the proceeds.

The Notice should also be attached to the property so it can be seen.

There is no set notice period. The Landlord should just give the tenant reasonable opportunity to take delivery of the goods. Fourteen days is often cited as being the appropriate period. However, if the Landlord wishes to demand payment for items such as sale or storage charges, then the 1977 Act stipulates that at least 3 months notice is required.

If you have any further questions regarding this please do not hesitate to contact our Director specialising in property disputes, Rob Cooke.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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