As an experienced Legal Assistant working in landlord and tenant law, I am often asked what happens when items have been left by the tenant who is believed to have vacated the property. Items left at the property can act as is an indication that the tenant still lives at the property. But, the tenant may have vacated the property and left the items intentionally. The next steps for the landlord are not always straightforward and it’s important to get it right.
Possession can be recovered by way of a possession order and bailiffs appointment. Or, through commencing court proceedings or by the tenant voluntarily vacating the property and surrendering the tenancy. Before dealing with the items in the property, we must first ask this question;
“Are we certain the tenant has vacated the property and will not return”.
If your answer is:
- “I am unsure whether the tenant has vacated and/or will return” – I advise either contacting the tenant to request clarification (in writing) or commencing court proceedings to obtain a possession order and bailiff appointment. This prevents the risk of the tenant filing a claim for unlawful eviction and claiming that possession has been unlawfully recovered as they had not in fact vacated the property. Once a possession order has been obtained and possession recovered by the tenant vacating voluntarily or by instructing a bailiff to evict the tenant from the property, we can then consider the next steps regarding the items left at the property (see point 2).
- “I am certain the tenant has vacated and will not return” or “I have obtained a possession order and possession has been recovered” – we can then consider what to do with the items left at the property. It is important to note that the landlord has an obligation to keep the items left at the property safe and to take reasonable steps to return them (unless the tenant has specifically said that they do not want the items and they can be disposed of).
Documenting the Items Left by a Tenant
During the initial inspection, it’s a good idea to prepare a list of the items left behind. Alternatively, take photographs of the items. This is to protect the landlord’s position against any allegations of missing items from the former tenant.
After the initial inspection and documenting, I advise that an email and/or letter is sent to the former tenant. It needs to be asking them for confirmation whether they wish to collect the items. Also, it must provide reasonable dates and times for collection. Ideally, get confirmation that the tenant is happy for the items to be disposed of. In the letter or email, I recommend that the list and/or photographs of the items be enclosed. This is a great way to evidence what items have been left behind. Additionally, provide a reasonable date you expect a response from the former tenant by (i.e., 14 days).
When to Seek Legal Advice
If you do not have the former tenant’s contact details, I advise seeking professional legal advice. Alternatively, if you are uncertain why items have been left by a tenant in the property and would like advice regarding the next steps, contact us. I also advise seeking professional legal advice for this, as a claim for unlawful eviction can be costly and often easily avoided.
If you require any assistance in landlord and tenant law, please do not hesitate to contact Woodstock Legal Service. We are happy to help and confirm the next steps to protect your position.