Abandoned rental property and goods
Circumstances of abandonment
Tenants sometimes abandon or leave a property without providing any notice. Before you take any action, it is a good idea to check if the tenant has actually left. The tenant may have gone on holidays, into hospital, prison, or a residential/aged care facility. If you cannot contact the tenant, you can try contacting the neighbours and their next of kin (if known).
The most common circumstances in which a tenant leaves a property and does not take their belongings with them, 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 imprisoned, moved into a care facility or nursing home
- tenant is deceased
Accessing the property
If you have reasonable grounds to suspect a tenant has abandoned the premises, you will probably want to check the security of the premises. '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.
Before you can enter the premises, you need to deliver the Form 12 - Notice to tenant of abandonment of premises to the premises and the tenant’s last known place of employment. If the tenant does not respond to this notice and tell you within 24 hours that they have not abandoned the property, you can enter to check and secure the property.
Terminating the tenancy agreement
If you do not need to secure the property and only want to end the tenancy, you are not have to issue the Form 12 first. To terminate the tenancy for abandonment, you have two options:
- Issue the Form 13 - Notice to tenant of termination if premises abandoned to the tenant. This notice advises that 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
- 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.
Goods left behind
There are procedures you must follow regarding abandoned goods at a rental property.
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