Storing abandoned goods from a rental property
Goods of value
If the estimated value of goods, including motor vehicles, caravans, trailers or boats, is more than it would cost for you to remove, store and sell the goods at public auction, you must store the goods immediately in a safe place and manner for at least 60 days.
Within 7 days of storing the goods, you must complete Form 2 - Notice to former tenant as to disposal of goods and give it to the former tenant (give means personally, by post or electronically).
If you don't know the tenant's forwarding details, you must complete Form 3 - Notice as to disposal of goods, and publish a copy in a newspaper that circulates generally throughout the State and place a copy in a prominent position on the premises (within 9 days). A record should be kept of these forms in case you need to prove in court that you have performed these actions.
Someone with a lawful right to the goods may reclaim them within the 60 days, or after that time if they remain unsold, after paying your reasonable removal and storage costs. Goods not claimed within 60 days must be sold at public auction and you are entitled to claim the costs incurred in their removal, storage and sale. The balance is paid into the Rental Accommodation Fund on application to the Magistrates Court using Form 11 - Proceeds of sale of abandoned goods. This will discharge your liability in respect of the funds.
If you are owed money from the previous tenancy (rent, damages etc), you can use Form 11 to claim from the money deposited. Court forms are available from the court nearest to you or through the Magistrates Court website.
Apart from these provisions (detailed in Section 79 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987), you cannot seize the tenant's goods or property as compensation for rent owing.
If you are in dispute with a former tenant over abandoned goods and you are unable to resolve the issue, you can make an application for a hearing in the Magistrates Court nearest to you.
Important documents and photographs
If the tenant leaves behind important personal documents then you will be required to store them in accordance with section 80A of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987. These include official documents, photographs, correspondence or other significant documents it is reasonable to expect a person would want to keep. Your need to take care of the documents for at least 60 days and take reasonable steps to notify the tenant where to collect the documents. If the tenant collects any documents from you, or you take the matter to court, you can be reimbursed for any reasonable costs.
Computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, hard drives, flash drives and any other type of digital storage media may contain abandoned documents. The Department does not include such items on an Abandoned Goods Certificate and it would be advisable to treat these items as abandoned documents and store them for 60 days.
If the documents or digital media have not been claimed within 60 days, you can dispose of them.
Vehicles, motorcycles, caravans, trailers or boats
Any vehicle which is abandoned at a property and located within the property boundary which does not include the council verge, may be covered by an Abandoned Goods Certificate. Vehicles abandoned in or on common property such as a car park of a block of units or flats, can be included on an Abandoned Goods Certificate application.
Please note that any vehicle abandoned at a property that is not owned by the tenant(s) named in the tenancy agreement will not be included on an Abandoned Goods Certificate.
When a tenant abandons a motor vehicle (or motor vehicles) or a trailer at a property, the first course of action for any applicant will be to check with the Police to see if the vehicle(s) is/are stolen.
Vehicles that are currently licensed should also be reported to the Police by the applicant and all reasonable means should be applied to have the vehicles owner remove the vehicle.
Please be aware that the Department cannot issue an Abandoned Goods Certificate on a vehicle or trailer that is licensed.
Applicants can conduct a check of a vehicle or trailer with a license plate attached to verify if it is currently licensed by searching on the Department of Transport website: Online vehicle license expiry check.
All states and territories have similar online facilities to check vehicle licenses as per the following links:
Western Australian Government - Vehicle Licence Expiry Date Enquiry
ACT Government - ACT Rego Transaction
Government of South Australia - Check Registration Expiry Date
New South Wales Government - Check Registration & History
Northern Territory Government - Rego Check
Queensland Government - Check Registration Status
Tasmanian Government - Vehicle Registration Status Enquiry
Victorian Government - Registration Check VicRoads
VicRoads may also authorise disposal of an uncollected vehicle: Release of registered operator information for uncollected vehicles
It is relevant to note that these searches do not provide any details as to the ownership of the vehicle.
Caravans abandoned in a caravan park
Caravan means a vehicle fitted or designed for habitation.
For caravans in a caravan park only which have been abandoned under the Residential Parks (Long-stay tenants) Regulations 2007, applicants should refer to regulation 57 of the Caravan Park and Camping Grounds Regulations 1997 which advises that an authorised person, or the licence holder of the facility where the caravan is situation, may give written notice that, in their opinion, a caravan owned or occupied by the person to whom the notice is given, is neglected or abandoned.
Notice given under this regulation is to briefly state:
- a description of the caravan sufficient to identify it, including where possible, its number plate; and
- any actions that may be taken to rectify the problem(s) with the caravan; and
- that those actions are to be taken within 14 days (or a longer period if specified) of service of the notice; and
- that if the notice is not complied with, the caravan may be removed from the facility and, after not less than 60 days of that removal, sold.
Where notice that a caravan on a facility is neglected or abandoned has not been complied with within the time specified in the notice, an authorised person, or the licence holder of the facility may cause the caravan to be removed from the facility.
Applicants can contact their local council for further advice and also refer to the following State Law Publisher pages
Caravans abandoned at a residential premises
Caravans abandoned at residential premises should be listed as an item for assessment in an application for an Abandoned Goods Certificate.
Please be advised that a valuation of the caravan may be requested by the Department.
Need a form?
The abandoned goods forms include the application for an abandoned goods certificate and notices to former tenants.
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