The tenants have gone, but their stuff hasn’t

Landlords should use leases to specify what will happen to a tenants’ possessions left behind when the tenant moves or is evicted – at least according to one law firm.

Some states like New South Wales have specific guidelines but it is a legal grey area in other locations.

Lucy Raymond of Makinson & d’Apice Lawyers says a lease should specify:

  • what opportunity the tenant will have to remove items;
  • what duty of care the landlord has towards goods left behind; and
  • whether, and in what circumstances, ownership of the items would transfer to the property investor.
“At common law, the landlord does not have any automatic right to ownership of the tenant’s property merely because the tenant has left,” she advised.

Lucy warned that unless the matter was covered under the lease, landlords could be liable for damage or loss of the tenant’s goods and could suffer complications and delay in re-leasing.

RentCover General Manager, Sharon Fox-Slater, said that property managers and landlords should check if existing rules in their state covered the situation.

“If not, getting everything clear in the lease. That will make it far easier if a problem situation does arise. The other thing leases should include is provision for who pays to store the goods until tenants recover them,” Sharon said.

The rules on disposing goods for different states can be found via the links below: