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Tenants stuff - where do I stand?

Landlords will often be confronted at some stage of the tenancy with the issue of tenants ‘stuff’.

What I mean by tenants ‘stuff’ is in fact the tenants’ possessions that occupy your lovely, valuable, minimalist property.

There are several issues relating to tenants 'stuff'.

Firstly, when it comes to carrying out a ‘check in’ it’s imperative that you note down in your inventory all your items of furniture and their details.  I’m talking about fridges, freezers, lampshades, curtain poles.  All the things that are not ‘bricks and mortar’.

This is because if there is a dispute ,you now have to prove to an arbitrator  of the relevant Tenancy Deposit Scheme that your fixtures, fittings and furniture were indeed yours.(watch out next week for Tom Derret’s of ADR solutions article )



This means that if you let the property with a fridge freezer.  You will have to prove that it was your lovely new Bosch freezer not some ‘crappy’ bit of junk that has suddenly appeared in its place at the end of the tenancy.  This means I’m afraid labouriously noting down the exact model and make of all your appliances if you are going to avoid having your things swapped for some of the tenant’s stuff.

Tenants waste – just as much of a problem.


Paradoxically, it’s not just a case of tenants running off with your things; but actually frequently it’s the things that they leave behind that can be just as much of a problem for landlords.

Now, having a valuable painting left in the attic would be a lovely surprise.  However, that very rarely happens.  A much more likely scenario is that the tenant will leave you with a whole load of ‘crap’.

What landlords need to ensure is that before they agree the check out with the tenant that they have thoroughly inspected the loft ( a favourite hiding place of tenants) and off course the cellar and garage.

All these places along with kitchen cupboards are places where  cunning tenants like to stash their old unwanted bric a brac, porn magazines and quite probably their collection of rotting retro-trainers.

In many ways having items left doesn’t seems so morally reprehensible as stealing ‘stuff’, but it can be equally annoying and frustrating for landlordsIf as it will probably involve loading up the car and a trip to the tip  It’s a waste of a landlords time and energy and pretty damn annoying.  Why should you do it rather than the tenant?  After all, it is their ‘stuff’ not yours.

Responsibility not always clear cut


I’ve recently had a case where the tenants left. They did clear out the flat but left most of their rubbish piled in bin liners next to an over filled wheelie bin.  Then, the local scavengers decided to pick through the bags to see if there was anything they could salvage! Is this what ‘Browns Britain’ has come to I thought.

The result.  A whole load of mixed rubbish left stroon across the parking court.  The tenants of course were long gone.

So who’s responsibility is it?


Arguably the tenants should have taken that quantity of rubbish to the tip.  Clearly, a wheelie bin is only designed to take a week or two of domestic waste and not to house a lifetimes junk.  Whilst the tenant hasn’t done anything wrong technically.  Why should the landlord spend a morning bagging up the rubbish again and taking it to the tip?

As it happens I used my initiative and phoned up the local council, Nottingham City.  They were very accommodating and I arranged a ‘special collection’ at no charge.  They will pick up the extra rubbish, provided it is bagged up.

In this situation I used a little bit of good will I have built up with my new tenant at the start of the tenancy.  I’ve asked for him to bag the rubbish for me as I’m away on holiday in France prior to the collection. 

This incident however does raise the important question of who is responsible for the tenants ‘stuff’.  Could I have charged the tenant for a commercial operation to clean up the rubbish and take it away?  Would this be a legitimate deduction from their deposit and would it hold up if the matter was disputed by the tenant by an appointed arbitrator.  Has anybody had experience of this? If so please post your comments below.



Landlords rights over tenants possessions


My final point on tenants 'stuff' relates to the rights of landlords over tenants’ property.  More specifically can a landlord keep a tenants’ possessions in lieu of payment?

Many landlords assume that if a tenant stops paying rent or owes them money; that they can do a 'quid pro quo' , using the tenants’ possessions as recompense.  It all makes sense in terms of the law of natural justice.

However, this assumption ignores the law of Tort (Intereference Goods) Act 1977.  This law specifically prevents a landlord from taking or withholding a tenants stuff in lieu of payment.  Before 1977 there was a law called ‘Detinue’.  However, this was specifically abolished by the above Act.

If a landlord does get tempted to withhold or take a tenants stuff then they could be in for a big fine.  In the recent case of Cashmere v. Walsh, Downing and Veale the tenant was awarded £6,515 for the landlord failing to return the tenants possessions.

The correct way for a landlord to claim for owed money is to recover it through possession proceedings or a money judgment.

A landlord who may have a tenant who appears to have ‘done a runner’ but has still left some of their possessions may be judged by the law to be still in possession of the property.  A landlord should always take the appropriate proceeding even where it looks like ‘abandonment’ may have occurred.

It just shows that a tenant’s ‘stuff’ can play a bigger part in a tenancy than you might first think.

Any comments on the issues raised please post them here.


 

Hi Property Hawk,
 
Just to add some anecdotal info:
 
I recently had a tenant do a runner on me to avoid eviction through unpaid rent, denying access, and widespread damage to the fixtures and fittings.
 
When he was gone, he left a LOT of junk, including a steel-framed articulated double-bed, a sofa (no cushions), a wardrobe, a chest, a steel cabinet, a dozen bike frames, 21 bike wheels, 14 front forks sets, and about 4cwt of gears and levers, and of-course the obligatory 3 mattresses.
 
When I checked what my legal rights were, I was told I can’t just skip-it, as it’s not mine. And even though I knew where he now lived (across the road if you can believe that!), I couldn’t dump it there either, as the landlord of THAT property could do me for dumping.
 
I had to give him official notice; a ‘reasonable period’ in which to remove it, knowing full-well he would do no such thing. Meanwhile my house was sitting junk-filled and un-let.
 
In the end it took two flatbed van-loads to the tip to get rid, and in respect of the cost of me removing the gear, I CAN indeed claim the legitimate removal costs, but this will just get added to the arrears and the bill for repairs of damages, which I’ll end up chasing him through the courts for.
 
Hey-ho.
 
Regards Andy


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Comments (7)

carpeting
my tenants had carpeting installed in a home that i own.they were not satisfied with the company so they put a sign in the front yard stating the company didnt finsh the job with the companys name on it.now the company the is sueing him and myself .can i be held liable for this clowns actions.
#1 - mr. mitchell - 11/18/2012 - 05:14
asylum seeker belongings
i was just wondering if anyone could give me some advice.
i had an asylum seeker living im my proporty, i was letting through an agent. they have now left, i have no idea where they are any they have not contacted me. the agent told me that they have lost thair asylum case and have also not picked up there payment they get weekley from the gov either. so i assume they are illegal in this country.

they have left all thair belongings behind, so what am i to do with it all, can i put it into a skip?

any help will be greatly appreciated.
#2 - harry - 11/27/2012 - 16:48
tenents moved out to tempory accomidation? because house a health risk they caused the problem
Hi my tenants have neglected the house so badly it is not fit to live in they have moved out into temp accomidation or so they say without notice to me because the house is a health risk thanks to them they had two dogs and a house rabbit which has destroyed the carpets,doors ect they have let the house go to ruin and the garden covered in dog muck and lots of it.I have given them notice to quit but as they have moved out can I just go in and take possession. as I am just glad to be rid of them.IT is a shame because they did pay the rent but they have caused a lot of damage through neglect.
#3 - mrs L pounder - 12/04/2012 - 16:11
Tenant has dissapeared and left belongings
Our tenant has dissapeared, stopped paying the rent, and we cannot get hold of her. She has not been back to the property for 6 months now and is not paying rent but she has left all her belongings here. What should we do with her belongings, as we now need to clear them for another tenant to move in?
#4 - Maggie Lou - 03/20/2013 - 17:54
Crooked Landlord
Our lease was approaching its term and we decided for us to move as the landlord showed interest in selling the property. Our family just relocated out of state. The Landlord never showed up for the first scheduled walk through the night before our move. We had written agreed text and verbal correspondence to fly back and to rent one last truck for our personal property and garage tools on 8/1/13 at 12pm walk through. Our agreed plan was that I would hire a cleaning person to do final detail cleaning which I had scheduled myself. The property looked pretty nice except the broken window pane the landlord agreed to fix in the winter but never did. He told me his wife always broke those panes to get into the house. This pane, but a brief description every time the cold brisk winter to shut the door the glass would fracture it was measured 4x4 in square the house built in 1926. for which I obtained video and photos. We put clear tape on it so the glass wouldnt fall out. We obtained those photos and video for our protection as the landlord appeared shady from 1) not showing up 2) as he was shopping through our property while in our presence showing great interest in my husbands tools, I told him those things were NOT for sale as I was preparing for a rummage, he laughed.. I didn't think anything of it, I work for church try to find good in all people. Occasionally he would make wise remarks about my participation for church.

When we left the property for the big move I set the security alarm one last time to protect our property on the agreed date and written time disassemble and transfer the security system, as we had temporarily installed and movable port as he agreed as well for installation, I acquired some stalkers outside my place of dwelling to ensure safety of myself, children, family and property. He admitted his wife had experienced the same behavior while living there and got beaten by this individual. Enough warrant to justify safety, he agreed.

I dropped my husband off at the airport, arrived at home as I was laying at home 8:48 am (back at the house it was 7:48 am) my phone rung and it was ADT security system burglar attempt alarm, the dispatcher asked to have police intervene I agreed since I was in another state and my husband was flying. In the mean time I was on hold trying to secure phone call and the transfer of service to our new residence, I received a text from the landlord asking for the password to our security system, I didn't reply to the text as the police already showed up while I was on hold. I ended the call and received a call from the police officer stating the interview was as follows, he specified he was the owner as my lease ended he was cleaning up belatedly lying to the officer the he didn't know about the security system and wanted to file a police report for the broken window, I informed the officer that we had a scheduled walk through at 12 and that my husband was in transit flying and renting a truck as agreed, the officer reassured me that our property would be safe and that the landlord was not going to enter the garage dwelling, the officer left. I received one text from the landlord nit picking and inaccurate untrue damages for these were things he knew about prior earlier, I called multiple times and texted many no response. I felt that things were fine as the officer stated about property safety.

In the meantime 11:09am approaches (10:09am landlord time) I received another ADT security burglar attempt from a different location of the home. I thought it was a duplicated call as I informed the dispatcher of the previous call and that police just left.

11:11am approaches (10:11am Landlord time) yet another phone call from ADT security a burglar attempt from a different location the dispatcher asked if police should get involved I still thought if was duplicate call and service cause the timing was so close together. As the officer left the property.

My brother in law who is a retired police officer and detective arrived first, opened the garage door very noticeably discovered that my husbands big woodworking tools of many along with other things of great value were GONE! He didnt touch anything We were robbed by our landlord, the no response no show up for walk through specific interest in our things indicates clear guilt, his comments in a text "I expected more out of you. "Wait a minute, we had a scheduled time and I hired cleaners to come to I dictate fine detailing. The property was in very clean showing condition I have proof. And it wasn't 12 pm yet as written agreement. That does not give him permission to take our expensive possessions.

In addition, when I had those two calls back to back from the security company ADT, the Landlord apparently cut the wire around the doors and taped the speaker. He took in addition the heavy duty floor fans that belonged to the cleaning lady that left it there with the intention to use it while cleaning as there was no A/C.

The police were called back to file a claim and charges and the look of disgust as they approached the property and I forwarded the texts and agreement to them for which they believed the owner at the time not the tennant at the time. The officer was going to go to the landlords property , no response. However the landlord made a couple of laps as my husband moved the minuscule property. I called the neighbor while out of state she saw him there and thought that there were new tenants.

I am very very saddened, completely. Our correspondence I thought was positive on departure but he just couldn't wait at our expense. Just things of sentiment big tools small tools, tools that some were in our family for generations old and new, he ran with anything he could use for monetary gain. Concrete park bench, etc.. Very manic.. Behavior.

In the end I cancelled the cleaning lady for which her property was taken, it appears to be an unsafe environment and unpredictable.
#5 - Amanda Wingert - 08/02/2013 - 12:43
Landlorn/tenant
Hi all,
I rented a property and stayed there 2 years before I got offered a new build which was a lot cheaper,
Before I left my landlord demanded a list of jobs like walls to be painted white, carpets to be shampooed and Lino to be replaced. Although I had no deposit to lose I completed the job list costing me over £250.
She complained about the £150 Lino I brought and apparently the carpets were still dirty, a company charged £20 a room and they had done a brill job! I left a corner sofa outside until I got money together to get it removed as I'm pretty skint after paying out the costs to the flat. Now my landlornds threatening to dump the sofa outside my new property where the rules state (no rubbish to be left on the front) is she in any right to do this and any idea if I've got any rights?
#6 - John - 09/04/2014 - 14:59
Landlorn/tenant
Hi all,
I rented a property and stayed there 2 years before I got offered a new build which was a lot cheaper,
Before I left my landlord demanded a list of jobs like walls to be painted white, carpets to be shampooed and Lino to be replaced. Although I had no deposit to lose I completed the job list costing me over £250.
She complained about the £150 Lino I brought and apparently the carpets were still dirty, a company charged £20 a room and they had done a brill job! I left a corner sofa outside until I got money together to get it removed as I'm pretty skint after paying out the costs to the flat. Now my landlornds threatening to dump the sofa outside my new property where the rules state (no rubbish to be left on the front) is she in any right to do this and any idea if I've got any rights?
#7 - John - 09/04/2014 - 16:18
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