When tenants vacate a property, there is usually a clean up job left for the landlord. Anything as small as cutlery to big items such as wardrobes get left behind. For whatever reason tenants leave their possession's, it it always best to understand what you can do as a landlord before "binning the leftovers".
David Grove, Partner in our Commercial Property discusses what you can do as a landlord if a tenant has left items behind
1. If, at the end of a lease, the Tenant moves out but leaves items behind, can the Landlord dispose of them ?
Unlikely. Even after the term has ended, anything belonging to a Tenant will still belong to the Tenant. Some items may belong to third parties. It is often difficult to prove that any item has been ‘abandoned’ and the Landlord opens itself up to the risk of a claim for damages of is simply disposes of items left behind.
2. Must the Landlord allow the Tenant to collect any items left behind ?
The Landlord must permit the owner of any items (whether that is the Tenant or a third party) reasonable opportunity to collect them. The Landlord cannot insist on payment (e.g. payment of arrears) as a pre-condition to allowing collection. Before the Landlord hands over any items to a third party the Landlord must take reasonable steps to establish that the third party is entitled to them
3. So what are the Landlord’s options ?
The Landlord’s options will largely be dictated by the terms of the Lease and any related documentation. However, in the absence of express provisions in the lease, the position is broadly as follows:
(i) some items may be so integrated into the Property so as to have become part of it (e.g. toilets). The Landlord can do what it likes with these items
(ii) the Landlord can simply leave the items at the Property. In that case, the Landlord must treat them reasonably and not damage them. In reality, this is not likely to be attractive to a Landlord, who will want to re-let the Property
(iii) the Landlord can move the items and store them elsewhere. If it does so, the Landlord must take reasonable care of the items and keep them safe. The Tenant should be liable for the costs incurred by the Landlord in storing the items but, again, this is unlikely to be an appealing route for the Landlord to take (except, perhaps, for a very short period).
4. What if the options above are not possible or attractive to a Landlord ?
This is, to be honest, the most likely scenario.
If the Landlord is confident that the items are of no value, it may feel safe in simply getting rid of them - on the basis that no-one is ever going to care or claim damages for their loss.
If the items left behind are not clearly of no value the Tort (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 does provide the Landlord with a route to dispose of the goods. If the process under that Act is followed (giving appropriate notice to the Tenant and any interested third parties, with no response receiving no response) the Landlord should then be free to dispose of the items. It is important, however, that legal advice is sought and the correct procedure is followed if the Landlord is to avoid the risk of a claim being made against it.
If you are a landlord and need more information about when a tenant vacate's your property, contact David on email@example.com or 01902 578085