Here is a question to the blog clinic from Marc who is a landlord
I recently received this email from my tenant
‘ …sorry about this but my guarantors took my keys off me moved all my things out without telling me and took over the house I had a argument with them they wanted the house off me.’
I went over to the property the same day and the locks had been changed. I called a locksmith to gain entry. After securing the premises I left a note in the window saying that for security reasons the locks had been changed and left my contact number.
The following day Saturday, I visited the property and the front door had been forced open with broken glass everywhere. I called the police who arrived and searched the property and found cannabis plants growing and my property being used as a cannabis farm.
I have tried to contact the tenant a number of times but haven’t received and further response from her either by email or text.
The police have told me that the property has been abandoned and belongings left behind are mine to do as I please.
My question therefore what do I do with all the stuff that’s been left behind, mainly dirty underwear, a bed, a leather settee, a play station and games etc. All the drugs have been removed by the police who are now treating my house as a crime scene.
My tenant had a AST tenancy agreement which changed to a periodic agreement some time ago .Her deposit is protected through one of the government approved schemes.
There is extensive damage throughout the property including an attempt to bypass the electric meter, installation of ducting running through to the loft etc.
An unfortunate situation and one sadly that is happening to not a few landlords.
So far as the tenants possessions are concerned, the police are wrong, they do not now belong to you, they still belong to the tenant. Even if the property has been abandoned this does not somehow transfer ownership of the goods left in it.
You are in the position of an ‘involuntary bailee’ and are required to hold the items for the tenant. You can only sell or dispose of them if you follow the requirements set out in the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.
These involve sending a letter by recorded delivery to the owner of the goods’ address giving them a reasonable period of time to remove them. However if after making reasonable efforts to find the tenant you are unable to do so, this requirement is waived.
This act was passed in 1977 and so before texts and emails were with us, and they do not count under the act.
It is not entirely unknown for owners of ‘abandoned goods’ to make a claim for them (eg see here) so it is best to keep a record of what you do. However, if you are able to prove that you have tried to locate the occupier without success and also that they goods have no value, you are able to dispose of them.
If any of the goods appear to have some value, the best way to deal with them is to put them up for sale in an auction. Any proceeds of sale will belong to the tenant but in view of your financial losses the tenant would have an uphill job recovering anything from you.
Some notes on other issues
It sounds as if the property has been abandoned and I think it unlikely in the circumstances that the tenant will return and claim that he has been unlawfully evicted by you. However take a look at this post which explains the concept of implied surrender.
So far as the deposit is concerned, you should be able to use it to offset at least part of your losses.