Abandoned goods at a rental property

The first thing to do is to try and contact your tenant to find out when, or if, they are going to collect any goods they have left behind. The below information will assist if you cannot contact the tenant or they provide no instruction for the abandoned goods.

Important changes to applying for Abandoned Goods Certificates

Under the law, a landlord or park operator can ask the Commissioner for Consumer Protection to supply a written statement of the Commissioner's opinion about certain goods left behind by the tenant. This opinion relates to whether the estimated value of abandoned goods is or is not less than the total estimated cost to remove the goods, store them for at least 60 days, and sell them at private auction. This statement is called an Abandoned Goods Certificate.

We have recently adopted changes to the policy that relates to this part of the law. From 1 November 2021, the Commissioner will no longer issue Abandoned Goods Certificates. 

We will continue to process applications for Abandoned Goods Certificates up to, and including, 31 October 2021. However, applications received after this date will not be processed. 

The change of policy does not remove the landlord or park operator's responsiblity in the handling of the tenant's abandoned goods. We are developing a checklist to assist with the abandoned goods process. Continue reading on this page for more information about the obligations that apply.

What to do with rubbish left by the tenant

No earlier than three days after the tenancy agreement ended, you can dispose of items seen to be rubbish. Some examples of rubbish include:

  • Perishable and Non-perishable foodstuffs;
  • Newspapers and magazines;
  • Cardboard boxes, plastic bags, household rubbish etc; 
  • Personal items e.g. toiletries, perfume, make up, medicines and pharmaceuticals;
  • Cleaning products, paint, solvents, oil, chemicals.

When any items deemed to be rubbish have been disposed of, you need to handle the remaining belongings in the different categories that they fall into, such as important documents and photographs, goods belonging to others, goods reportable to authorites, and goods of value.

Goods of little or no value

If you believe that the estimated value of the abandoned goods is less than what it would cost you to remove the goods, store the goods for at least 60 days and sell the goods at public auction, you can choose to dispose of the goods. This includes jewellery, motor vehicles, caravans, trailers or boats.

Before you dispose of any goods, make sure you:

  • Have reasonably attempted to contact the tenant(s) to collect their goods; and
  • understood the obligations for storing good of value.

The tenant may apply to Magistrates Court or the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) for compensation for the disposed of goods. You may need to prove to the Magistrate or SAT member that the disposed of goods were of a value less than the cost to remove, store, and sell at public auction. It is recommended that you obtain a written estimated value of the goods from an authorised person, such as a second hand dealer, along with written quotes to show the cost to store the goods for 60 days and written quotes to show the cost to sell the goods at a public auction.

Goods of value in a residential tenancy

If the estimated value of goods 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 seven days of storing the goods, you must try and notify the tenant using one of the following methods:

Keep a record 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 for their removal, storage and sale.

The balance must be paid into the Rental Accommodation Fund via an 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 associated tenancy, such as rent, damages etc, you can use the Form 11 to claim the costs from the money deposited.

You cannot seize the tenant's goods or property as compensation for rent they may owe. If you are in dispute with the tenant over abandoned goods or unpaid rent and you cannot resolve the issue, you can make an application for a hearing in the Magistrates Court nearest to the property. Court forms are available from the court nearest to you or through the Magistrates Court website.

Goods of value in a caravan or residential park

If the estimated value of goods 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 seven days of storing the goods, you must try and notify the tenant by sending a Notice to former tenant about abandoned goods using one of the following methods:

  • If you have the tenant's contact details, give the form to the former tenant (give means personally, by post or electronically). 
  • If you don't know the tenant's forwarding details, you must instead publish a copy or summary of the form in a newspaper that circulates generally throughout the State.

Keep a record 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 for their removal, storage and sale.

If the sum raised from the sale of the goods at public aution is in excess of the amount owed, you may apply to the SAT for a decision regarding the balance of the funds.

Goods you must store - 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. You 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 documents and it would be advisable to treat these items as abandoned documents and store them for 60 days.

You can dispose of any unclaimed documents or digital media after the 60-day period ends.

Items requiring special consideration

If your tenant abandons any of the following items, you can contact the appropriate organisation for assistance:

  • Money - You can contact the Department of Treasury for information on how to deal with unclaimed money
  • Animals and pets - You can contact an animal shelter or refuge for information on what to do with abandoned animals and pets. 
  • Firearms, illegal drug paraphernalia or equipment - Report these items to the WA Police. 
  • Rental items belonging to a third party commercial supplier - You can contact the supplier to arrange the return of their items, such as rented white goods, Foxtel units, rented furniture, shopping trolleys etc.
  • Abandoned vehicles or trailers - You should first contact the Police to see if the vehicle has been stolen. Vehicles that are currently licensed should also be reported to the Police and all reasonable means taken to have the vehicle’s owner remove the vehicle. You can use the WA Department of Transport’s online vehicle licence expiry date enquiry to see if the vehicle or trailer is currently licensed. All other states and territories have similar online facilities to check vehicle licences. These checks will provide ownership information. You can check whether there is a security interest for any debt registered over the vehicle or whether the vehicle is reported stolen or written off, by searching for the vehicle on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR).

Caravans abandoned in a caravan or residential park

Caravan means a vehicle fitted or designed for habitation. For abandoned caravans in a caravan or residential park, you should refer to regulation 57 of the Caravan Park and Camping Grounds Regulations 1997. This section allows an authorised person or the licence holder of the facility where the caravan is situated to give written notice that it is their opinion that the recipient’s caravan 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.

If the caravan abandonment notice has not been complied with, either an authorised person or the licence holder of the park may remove the caravan from the park.

You can contact your local council for further advice and also refer to the following legislation:

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