Abandoned property - residential tenancies
A rental property can't be treated as 'abandoned' unless you are sure that the people who have been living there won't be returning. Once you are satisfied, there are steps you need to take when dealing with items they left behind. Belongings and personal documents must be dealt with differently.
If it's unclear if the property is abandoned, read our information sheet about what to do next.
Belongings left at the property
Once the landlord is sure that the rental property is abandoned, they should:
- throw away perishable items such as food
- leave all other items at the property for at least two more days
- allow the tenant reasonable access over the two days to collect their items
- make a list of what's there and if possible, include photos
- work out if the belongings are worth more than the cost to remove, store and sell them.
Estimating costs and valuing the belongings
The landlord should get quotes for the cost involved in removing and storing the items. If the landlord removes the items they can claim $24.90 an hour for the time it takes to pack, remove and store them. The cost to hire a trailer can also be included if one needs to be hired.
The landlord should get a quote from a second-hand dealer on the resale value of the items. If that is more than the cost to remove, store and sell them, they must:
- try to contact the tenant and tell them what was found at the property
- take steps to keep the valuable items safe for at least 28 days.
Belongings can be claimed when their owner pays removal and storage costs. If no one claims valuable items within 28 days, the landlord can sell or dispose of them as if they owned them.
Money that the landlord receives from the sale can cover the costs to remove, store and sell the items and any other amount the tenant owes under the tenancy agreement. The remaining money needs to be given to a bonds officer at Consumer and Business Services.
Personal documents left at a property
If personal documents are left at the property the landlord must try to contact the tenant as soon as they can to tell them what they found.
The landlord will need to keep the documents safe for at least 28 days. If they aren't reclaimed within the 28 days the documents can be destroyed or disposed of. The landlord must dispose of private information in a way that protects the tenant's privacy - eg shredding.
Pets left at a property
Animals aren't considered abandoned belongings. If pets and livestock are left behind they should be secured and cared for at the rental property until arrangements are made for someone else to care for them. The RSPCA or the Animal Welfare League may be able to help.