What happens when goods are left behind in a rental property?

Goods left behind in a rental property are a problem for the landlord, who can’t rent it out until the previous tenant’s things have been removed. It can also prove costly to tenants.

Between July and September 2011, Consumer Affairs Victoria dealt with over 900 cases of goods left behind in rental properties.

The tenant and the landlord both have rights and responsibilities when goods have been left behind.

Tenants

If you’re moving out, give your contact details to the landlord so they can get in touch with you promptly about items you may have forgotten.

If you know you’ve left something behind, contact the landlord and arrange to collect your possessions as soon as possible.

When you reclaim your things, you will need to repay any reasonable expenses the landlord has paid to remove and store them.

The landlord must allow you to collect your belongings, even if you owe rent.

Landlords

If your tenant has left items in the property, you can dispose of:

  • perishable items
  • dangerous goods (check with Environment Protection Authority and Worksafe for appropriate action)
  • goods of no monetary value

You must store all other goods unless the cost of removing, storing and auctioning them, as well as notifying the tenant, would be more than the goods’ combined monetary value.

You must:

  • store the goods for 14 days
  • notify the tenant within seven days to arrange collection
  • let the tenant reclaim the goods, after they have paid any reasonable costs you have incurred to remove and store them.

It is recommended that you contact Fair Trading on 13 32 20 for further information or refer to Residential Tenancies Act 2010 No 42

If the tenant has left personal documents, you must store them for at least 90 days, take reasonable care of them, and allow the tenant to reclaim them once they have paid you the reasonable storage costs.

Personal documents include official documents, photographs, correspondence, images on still and video cameras, material on computer hard drives and any other documents someone would reasonably be expected to keep.

Penalties exist for not letting a tenant or resident reclaim documents when they were willing to pay a reasonable amount to cover those costs.

INVENTORY LIST

Making sure a good inventory is in place is effective in distinguishing between the tenant’s possessions and what belongs to the landlord. Although some of the abandoned goods may appear of little value, creating a new inventory, along with photographic evidence and a statement of the items’ condition and estimated value, would ensure that if the tenant was to return claiming that the goods had been damaged or that his possessions were worth a significant sum, this could be disproved. If you fail to make contact with the tenants in order to return the possessions, the items with any monetary or sentimental value should be placed in storage for up to three months or the period stated within the tenancy agreement.

Following the end of the storage period, the possessions removed from the property can then be sold to cover tracing costs, any outstanding rent arrears or storage costs.

More information

Find more information on renting and dealing with goods left behind at fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.

Contact Fair Trading by lodging an online enquiry, visiting your nearest Fair Trading Centre, or calling 13 32 20.

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