Landlords in the UK must go through the eviction process to remove difficult tenants from their property. But unfortunately, after this some have the headache of having to remove the tenant’s belongings left behind. The question many have for our team at Woodstock is whether they can just dispose of them. The short answer is that a landlord cannot dispose of a tenant’s belongings without their authority. The exception is when a torts notice has been served and the tenant has failed to respond.
What to do with the tenant’s belongings?
Unfortunately, when a tenant vacates, if they leave their belongings and these belongings are damaged or disposed of by the landlord, the tenant can potentially make a claim against the landlord. We therefore always advise landlords to try to contact their tenants or get their managing agents to do so on their behalf. It’s best to try to arrange for a mutually convenient time for collection.
The second issue that many landlords have is letting the tenant back into the property. Many landlords fear that once the tenant is let back into the property the tenant will not leave. As such, we regularly advise landlords to store belongings in garages if available. That way, the tenant does need to access the main property again. When arranging for collection we also advise that they have an additional witness present.
What if the tenant is not communicating with the landlord or their agents to arrange for collection?
Under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, a landlord should serve a torts notice on the tenant. This notice should be drafted by a solicitor and served on the last known address of the tenant. We would advise to serve it on the tenant by several methods. Email, Whatsapp, text, and by post to any new known address. If the tenant then fails to act on this notice within the notice period provided, the landlord is free to sell or dispose of the tenant’s belongings. Without the tenant being able to make a claim against the landlord.
The date the torts notice expires will be based on the 14-day notice period that the tenant must be afforded under the tenancy should the tenancy contain such a clause. If there is no such clause in the tenancy, then the 3-month notice period provided by the legislation would apply.
So in summary, these are the steps we at Woodstock advise landlords to follow:
1- Try to contact the tenant to arrange collection of their belongings
2 – Record all efforts to contact the tenant
3 – If that fails, instruct a firm of solicitors to draft the notice and covering letter
4 – Provide the firm of solicitors with all contact details for the tenant
5 – Try to describe the items as clearly as possible and, better still, take pictures to attach to the notice
6 – Try to contact the tenant upon the expiry of the notice and prior to disposing of the goods – keep a record of your efforts to communicate.
If a landlord is unsure as to whether the service of a torts notice is required, they should seek the advice of solicitors.