Tenant fails to remove property when terminating lease

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In circumstances where your tenant vacates, whether by way of an agreed surrender or following a possession order being granted, the case of Campbell v Redstone Mortgages Ltd [2014] EWHC 3081 has provided some clarification as to how you should deal with any property your tenant leaves behind.

In such a situation, a landlord will become an involuntary bailee of the tenant’s property and consequently must follow certain procedures set out in the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 before it can sell or dispose of the property.

A well-drafted lease will often include a clause governing how the parties should conduct themselves at the end of the tenancy and how the tenant’s property should be dealt with if it is left behind.

Campbell involved a mortgagee in possession that had made numerous efforts to facilitate the clearance by the mortgagor of its belongings. In consideration of its efforts, along with the low value of the items and the high level of arrears involved in this particular case, the High Court decided that the mortgagee had done everything it could do in the circumstances.

The Court confirmed that an involuntary bailee must do what is right and reasonable to enable the mortgagor to collect her belongings and in this case the mortgagee had satisfied that test. It was therefore appropriate for it to dispose of the items rather than put them into storage or sell them.

As a landlord or management agent, it is important to approach this type of situation with caution so as to avoid a potential claim for damages from your tenant. However, the High Court has now clarified that as long as you do what is right and reasonable in the circumstances, you should be safe from such a claim. This will hopefully make it easier for landlords in the future.

To find out whether you can use CRAR or whether some other method of recovering rent arrears will be more suitable please speak to Robert Twining  by calling 01732 770660 or email r.twining@warners.law

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