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Sometimes owning Buy To Let property is a great thing to do and yet there are other days when being a landlord is a great deal of financial and mental hassle!

Take yesterday for example, had to arrange to put tenant’s abandoned belongings into multiple storage units after the tenant had officially checked out of a property to move in with her new boyfriend. The tenant had been ok, not too much trouble and the rent was always paid on time.

However, the amount of stuff that was left behind was unbelievable, personal correspondence, rubbish, clothing and even some furniture. As a landlord I was tempted to hire a skip and just trash the lot, but the law states that I am not allowed to do that straight away, instead I have to store the belongings for a period of time and contact the tenant to request that she collects them.

That would not be so bad if it was only for a week but the law states that I have to keep the items for up to 21 days before I am legally allowed to dispose of them. I want to get my property back on the market and let again quickly which is why I chose to hire a couple of storage units at my own expense and just shoved the lot in there.

Why are most of the UK rental property laws and legislation still stacked in favour of tenants?

As a landlord we have to pay out all the time and all the tenants have to pay is the rent. Is there a legal way to get the tenant to pay for storage or can I deduct costs from the deposit?

As a landlord did you know that there are legal requirements regarding tenant’s belongings or that the landlord is legally obliged to provide storage solutions for personal possessions for a period of time following abandonment?

The subject is commonly discussed by UK landlords and usually centres on personal possessions left in rental property and what to do with them.

Frequent scenario’s include:

  • Tenants complaining that the landlord has seized their belongings and refuses to give them back until they pay overdue rent money owed.
  • Landlords asking what to do with a tenant’s personal belongings when they have left the property.

A landlord cannot by law withhold a tenant’s personal belongings in lieu of any monies owed. If a tenant owes rent to the landlord, then the correct way to recover the sum is through the county court in possession proceedings or as a separate action for a money judgment.

If a tenant leaves their belongings in the landlord’s property, as harsh as this may seem a landlord is under a legal obligation to take care of tenant’s possessions.

Protecting, removal and storage of uncollected goods can result in extra costs that the landlord doesn’t want but the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 does provide some guidance.

The same law covers both situations.

There used to be a law called ‘Detinue’ that allowed landlords to hold on to personal belongings when a tenant owed them rent, but this was abolished by the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977

The landlord may have a legal obligation to protect, remove and store a tenant’s possessions resulting in extra costs that the landlord doesn’t want but be advised that if a tenant appears to have abandoned their belongings, it could be argued in court, that the goods left could be evidence of the tenants intention to return and therefore the property was not officially abandoned.

This can be a real headache for landlords who often change the locks on the assumption that the rental property has been abandoned. However, if the tenant subsequently turns up, the landlord could be considered by the courts, to have illegally evicted the tenant. So landlords are urged to act cautiously.

It is good practice, when signing up a new tenant, to collect alternative contact details of relatives or friends who a landlord can contact in the event of having goods left in the premises.

In theory it is possible to insert a suitable clause into a tenancy agreement to set out contractual obligations regarding this, but it is advisable to use a formal notice of collection of goods as well to avoid any possible come backs.

In the event that there is a dispute about ownership of the goods that are left, landlords cannot dispose of goods until the matter is resolved.

If the landlord intends to dispose of the goods left in a rental property then, by law the landlord must give 21 days notice before disposal. If the tenant owes money to the landlord BEFORE service of the notification then the landlord is obliged under the law to keep the personal belongings for at least 3 months before sale or disposal.

The landlord is entitled to sell the goods and keep any reasonable costs that were incurred for storage, removal or sale. The law expects the landlord to obtain the best price they can and then return the amount beyond the landlord’s costs to the tenant.

It is unlikely that tenants absconding or abandoning rental properties would leave expensive items behind, usually it is just junk or old clothes and broken furniture so the likelihood of recouping funds owed through the sale of items is often slight in most cases.

The landlord requirements on this matter may seem particularly onerous but this is just one of the many frustrations faced by private rental sector (PRS) landlords, it goes with the territory. Landlords can make good money but it is not necessarily easy money and the protection of a tenant’s goods is just one area where landlords need to operate within the boundaries of the current legislation.

Insurance is a must!

Specialist Insurance provides landlords and tenants with peace of mind

UK landlords should already be aware of the necessity, legality and financial importance of having the right insurance protecting their property asset and should always seek to get their rental properties suitably covered with a comprehensive landlord or Buy-To-Let insurance policy.

However, whilst landlords stay insured keeping their property assets protected, very few tenants bother to investing in contents insurance or specialist tenant insurance.

Even though the tenants don’t own the property and are therefore not responsible for the actual bricks and mortar, the property does still contain all of their personal belongings, including important documents and irreplaceable mementoes and so insurance should be an important consideration.

In the event of a claim having to be made, in the case of a fire, for example, tenants may have mistakenly thought they would automatically be covered by the landlord and tried to claim for loss of their important and expensive items from the Landlords Insurance policy, the landlord would receive compensation for the damage to the property, whilst the tenants would find, in most cases, that their claims were unsuccessful and they would be left with nothing.

Tenant Insurance is a necessity is because it is highly unlikely that any tenant belongings will be covered by the landlords insurance. The landlord should have insurance cover to protect the fabric of the building itself, (including certain contents such as the kitchen cupboards, bathroom fixtures etc) and even cover for loss of rent but not the contents of the tenants.
Tenant insurance will also help to protect the tenant’s deposit as good policies cover tenants against accidental damage.

Read the full article on Legal 4 Landlords Blog

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