The nature of student lets means your property is typically vacated every July. That means more time preparing a property for the next tenants moving in. It also means more abandoned property. But before you open your laptop and go straight to eBay, landlords are required to adhere to certain procedures for disposal.
Torts Interference with Goods Act 1977
It is important you understand the implication of this law which protects property. The short explanation is that you may not dispose of them as soon as you find them. Legally, anything the previous student tenant leaves behind remains their property and responsibility. All property is protected by this law.
This can be frustrating, especially for general population renting. Landlords of student HMOs typically have a bit more time to dispose of such property. However, you do have certain rights and responsibilities as the landlord: You must take care of the goods while in your possession; they must be kept in a safe place.
Schedule 1 Notice
This is official notice that you must serve to your tenants to notify possession of property. The law requires you to send a letter to their new address, by recorded delivery, if known. If you do not know their new address, you may use social media and email in a reasonable attempt to contact them. You must also attach a copy of this letter to the property, wherever you decide to keep it.
It must contain the following information:
- Property location
- A list of all items in your possession
- Notification of sale: when and where
- Notification that cost of storage will be deducted
The typical amount of notice is 21 days.
Sale of Goods
You may not sell the property until 21 days have passed or they have given you permission to do so, whichever comes first. If they do reach out, keep a record of all communications so there is no comeback later if you sell something, they never intended to give permission to sell.
If you cannot get hold of them (no forwarding address, no response from email or social media) allow the 21 days to pass.
What Happens to the Money?
You must fully account for all the money, even if selling on their behalf. You are legally permitted to deduct the cost of sale and storage from any returned deposit, but you must keep a record. You must return money left over to the departing tenant(s).
There are some limited circumstances under which you are permitted to keep all proceeds. The first is where they have provided written permission for you to do so. If you could not get hold of the tenants, you must keep the money aside for a minimum of six years.