Dealing with Goods Left Behind by Tenants and Squatters

Mark Cummings

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After evicting a non-paying tenant, or a squatter, a common problem for landlords is what they should do with property which has been left behind.

Can I throw away property left behind by a tenant?

Unfortunately, under the current law, a landlord can't just simply throw everything into a skip, or take the goods which have been left behind to a charity shop.

The landlord has obligations under the Torts (Interference With Goods) Act 1977, which says that goods left behind, remain the property of the tenant. The act also imposes an obligation on the landlord to take care of them, and to take reasonable steps to trace the tenant in order that the goods can be returned.

This appears to be fairly harsh for landlords, who may well have already spent time and money getting rid of a squatter or tenant, as well as losing out on rental income in the process.

Can I sell stuff left behind by a tenant?

However, the landlord is allowed to sell the goods under section 12 of the Act, if the tenant or squatter breaks an arrangement to take delivery of the goods or the landlord is unable to trace them. A notice of sale is required.

A benefit to the landlord, is that from the sale proceeds, the landlord can deduct costs incurred and any outstanding rent arrears.

Landlords must be extremely careful when selling goods belonging to a squatter or an ex-tenant, as there is prescribed notice which the landlord must give before they can do so.

How can we help?

Samuels Solicitors, based in North Devon, has been assisting clients with problem tenants and squatters for over 25 years. The law in this area changes very often, and so it is vital for landlords and property owners to take up to date expert advice about how to deal with these issues. 

Contact us today for a free discussion with a property law expert about how we can help you.