Abandoned rental property and goods

Circumstances of abandonment

The most common circumstances in which a tenant vacates a property and leaves goods behind are:

  • tenancy has ended normally
  • tenancy has been terminated by a court order
  • tenant has been evicted by the bailiff
  • tenant has abandoned the property owing rent
  • tenant has been incarcerated, moved into a care facility or nursing home
  • tenant is deceased

Tenants sometimes abandon a property without providing any notice. Before you take any action, it is a good idea to check whether the tenant has gone on holidays or into hospital, prison or residential/aged care facility by contacting the neighbours and next of kin (if known).

If you have reasonable grounds to suspect a tenant has abandoned the premises, you will probably want to ensure the security of the premises. However, Form 12 - Notice to tenant of abandonment of premises must first be delivered to the premises and the tenant’s last known place of employment. If you do not need to secure the property and only want to terminate the tenancy, you are not required to issue the Form 12 first.

If the tenant does not tell you within 24 hours that they have not abandoned the property, you can enter to check and secure the property.

'Reasonable grounds' means the tenant has failed to pay rent under the tenancy agreement and at least one of the following has occurred:

  • uncollected mail, newspapers or other material at the premises;
  • reports from neighbours of the tenant indicating the tenant has abandoned the premises;
  • absence of household goods at the premises; or
  • disconnection of services such as gas, electricity and telephone to the premises.

At this stage, if you want to terminate the tenancy for abandonment you have two options:

  1. Issue a second notice, Form 13 - Notice to tenant of termination if premises abandoned to the tenant advising you suspect the premises have been abandoned and if the tenant does not respond or dispute the notice within seven days the tenancy agreement will be terminated; or
  2. Apply to the nearest Magistrates Court for an order declaring the premises have been abandoned.

If you are unsure, a court order may be a better option to pursue as the tenant can challenge the notice of termination for loss or expenses through the Magistrates Court within 28 days after the notice was given.

There are procedures you must follow regarding abandoned goods at a rental property before you attempt to dispose of goods abandoned by your tenants. You may need to store abandoned goods  first.

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