What should landlords do when tenants leave their belongings behind?

Tuesday 12th November 2013

A tenant, who was last month evicted from a rental property in Earlsfield, left behind all of her belongings and a trail of squalor that will cost the landlord in excess of £8,000 to put right. The landlord is now locked in a battle with his ex-tenant despite the fact the two year nightmare tenancy was brought to end with an eviction carried out by Landlord Action on 23rd October.

A little over a year ago, the landlord, Mr Paul Sinclair, rented his property to a tenant who he believed, from references, was in full time employment.  It later transpired she was not, and was in fact claiming housing benefit. From the outset, the tenant never paid the £1,100 per month rent in full, and instead chose to send nominal amounts as and when, £10, £50, £400. Mr Sinclair allowed the tenancy to continue knowing the tenant had two children, until such time as payments became so infrequent he was no longer able to meet his own mortgage payments on the property.

A successful possession order was granted on 9th August 2013, meaning the tenant had to vacate by the 23rd. She refused to leave and instead filed a defence to delay the process, saying she had not received the notice. After a hearing on the 16th September, an eviction date was finally set for 23rd October. Since then, the tenant has absconded leaving behind a property full of belongings and filth. Sewage has built up in the living areas, there is mould in every corner of the kitchen and its appliances, with rubbish, which has collected over months, attracting vermin and leaking toxic gases. 



Now, despite reclaiming possession, Mr Sinclair remains locked in an ‘unproceedable’ position as the property remains packed with hoards of the tenant’s belongings.


Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action has issued the following advice: “Landlords who find left items at their property, whether by accident or deliberate, must follow a procedure in order to dispose of them to avoid repercussions. In this instance, we have advised Mr Sinclair that he is within his rights to dispose of any rubbish and perishable items immediately. He then needs to give the tenant written notice that the rest of her belongings must be collected by a certain date, otherwise they will be disposed of.


However, whilst items of value must be held for 14 days, personal documents such as financial information, personal photos or identity documents must be kept safe for up to 90 days. “This is a very time consuming and frustrating situation for any landlord” says Shamplina. “When you finally get possession of your property, you want to take control straight away and sadly that is not always the case.”


Landlord Action advise all landlords to ensure there is a clear communication trail indicating you have done all you can to ask the tenant to remove the items, then have a third party inventory company carry out a full check-out report so that the items are documented. Finally, dispose of the items accordingly. If the tenant does choose to come to the property and remove the items, ensure there is an agent present as a witness.


Mr Sinclair commented “The financial and emotional burden this dealt me with is unimaginable. The extent of the mess is something I thought was just fabricated in media stories but sadly, this is reality. Reclaiming possession of my property is only half of the story as I am now faced with further threats from the tenant who says she will sue if I remove her belongings. I feel the rules on matters such as these need to be clearly laid out as part of winning a possession order.”


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