When tenants leave things behind, we’ve already seen that it can cause a number of problems for the landlord, and there are various steps they have to take to comply with the law (even if that does mean they are out of pocket or inconvenienced in some way).
Our first post on the subject of what happens when tenants leave things behind focused on those steps and explained in detail just what the landlord has to do before they can think about returning a deposit (or not), or disposing of any unwanted ‘junk’ or furniture or anything else that has been left by the previous tenant. This post is about what else can be done, and what other questions a landlord might have when tenants leave things behind.
Is There Anything Else I Can Do?
Being stuck in a situation where tenants leave things behind is annoying at best and disastrous at worst; it can mean that you have to delay re-renting your property, and you may even have to pay for storage or disposal (although this can be claimed back through the deposit, of course). In any case, no matter what, when tenants leave things behind they are going to be giving you a lot more to deal with that you need to, especially when you’re trying to find new tenants for the property.
Something that might speed up the process and give your tenants some momentum and impetus to actually remove their possessions without you having to get involved is the idea that, if they haven’t taken everything away, then they haven’t given ‘vacant possession’, and that means they can be liable to continue paying rent until such time as the items are dealt with. Although this usually applies in commercial leases, it could be just what you need to persuade the tenants to make a decision about their old stuff more quickly. Mention it before they move out, and those it will be a rarer event for tenants to leave things behind.
Not everyone leaves things behind on purpose, especially smaller items. However, coming back to retrieve them might not be possible if they have moved far away, are unwell, or anything else that might prevent them from returning. In this case, a negotiation might be a useful tactic.
If you understand their situation, and they are willing to discuss the matter, it might be possible to arrange for a third party to collect the items, for example. It would mean you or your representative would need to be around to let the collector in, so of course you might find it easier to arrange all of this (although the cost would be the tenant’s responsibility).
If you’re having a lot of trouble reaching a fair result, it’s best to reach out to TDS or MyDeposits for advice.
Duty Of Care
When tenants leave things behind, any landlord might assume that, if the tenant expresses they no longer want the items and the landlord can dispose of them, that instead they can simply leave them in the property for the next tenant. However, although this does seem to be a potentially sensible idea (again, depending on what the items are), there are some things to take into consideration at this point.
Firstly, does the furniture come with a fire safety label? Have the electrics had a PAT test? If not, you’ll need to get them inspected and approved – and you’ll have to do it regularly too (PAT testing needs to be carried out every five years).
Secondly, if you leave the items in the property and include them on your inventory as already being there, they are your responsibility. So although it might seem like a great thing if a tenant leaves behind a fridge freezer or dishwasher, for example, because new tenants aren’t going to have to pay out for their own, if something goes wrong you are responsible for fixing it. Often it can be easier not to have any furnishings or appliances in a property as there will be less for you to worry about.
If you want to use the items when tenants leave things behind – and you have permission to do so – then you can ask for them to be included on your tenancy agreement as a ‘gifted’ item. This essentially means that the tenant can use them, but you aren’t responsible for them. And, at the end of the tenancy, the tenant can take them with them. In fact, the tenant should take them with them otherwise the landlord will be in the same situation they were in before!
How To Prevent A Situation In Which Tenants Leave Things Behind
As we’ve said, mistakes happen, especially when moving the moving day is a stressful one and there are a million and one other things to consider. In this case, the issue of when tenants leave things behind is easily rectified. However, some landlords will have had major issues leading to major headaches in this situation, and they won’t want to go through it again. Although it’s never going to be possible to prevent it from happening entirely, there are some measures you can put in place to give you a fighting chance.
- Referencing your tenants will let you know how they treated their last rented property. Did they leave it in a good state? This is important to know.
- Include, in very simple terms, exactly what will happen if a tenant leaves any items behind. Make sure the tenant is aware of this clause before they sign the agreement.
- Regular inspections can be useful too. The landlord will get a feel for how the tenant is taking care of their property, and the tenant will know that the landlord is keeping an eye on things (not in an obtrusive way, of course!). Plus these inspections will help both parties get to know one another. They’ll be less likely to leave things if they know the landlord better.
- Once the tenant has given notice, ensure you write back to let them know you have received that notice, and to remind them of their responsibilities when they leave. Let them know there will be a check-out carried out too.