Landlord may dispose of goods left behind
If you leave goods behind on the premises at the end of your tenancy, the landlord/agent may dispose of them after giving you correct notice.
The end of your tenancy means you have given the landlord vacant possession of the premises (you have moved out and returned the keys).
The following also applies if you have abandoned the premises (e.g. you leave and stop paying rent without notice to the landlord).
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 sets out the process that a landlord/agent must follow when dealing with goods left behind and how they may dispose of them.
Types of goods
- ‘ordinary’ goods
- personal documents
- perishable goods and rubbish
The landlord/agent may dispose of perishable goods or rubbish at any time without notice.
Personal documents include:
- a birth certificate, passport or other identity document
- bank books, financial statements or documents
- photographs and other personal memorabilia
- licences or other documents conferring authorities, rights or qualifications.
Correct notice of disposal
The landlord/agent must give you notice that, unless you claim them:
- ordinary goods will be disposed of after 14 days
- personal documents will be disposed of after 90 days.
The landlord/agent may give you notice:
- in writing
- by post to your forwarding address (they must allow 4 working days for delivery)
- orally in person or by phone.
If after 2 days the landlord/agent is unable to give you notice by the above means, they must post a notice in a prominent place on the premises (e.g. on the front door).
Claiming goods before disposal
You (or another person entitled to them) may collect the goods from the landlord/agent at any (mutually agreed) time.
- must return the goods
- can charge you an occupation fee (see below)
- cannot require payment of any other amount
Write to the landlord/agent to claim the goods and to arrange a time to collect them. Include times and dates when you are available and give the landlord/agent a date by which to respond.
Ensure that you are available to collect the goods at the arranged time and have the means to do so.
The landlord/agent can charge the equivalent of one day’s rent for each day they hold the goods. In total, an occupation fee cannot exceed the equivalent of 14 days rent.
Disposal of ordinary goods
The landlord/agent may dispose of the goods in any lawful manner (such as donating them to charity, having the local council collect them or selling them).
If they sell the goods, the landlord/agent must keep a record of the goods sold. On your request, they must pay you the proceeds of the sale less any occupation fee and the reasonable costs of the sale.
Disposal of personal documents
The landlord/agent should return the documents to the issuing authority. If they cannot reasonably do this, they may dispose of them in any lawful manner that does not result in personal information becoming public (e.g. shredding them before disposal).
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) can handle disputes about goods left behind. You can apply to the Tribunal for order/s: that the landlord/agent:
- compensate you for disposing of goods other than according to the law – apply within 30 days of becoming aware of the goods’ disposal
- compensate you for damage to goods left on the premises before they are claimed – apply within 30 days of becoming aware of the damage
- return goods to you – apply within 3 months of becoming aware that the landlord/agent holds the goods
- pay you the proceeds of sale of goods, or an amount equivalent to the value of the goods – apply with 6 months of the termination of the tenancy agreement.
- give you, or a person you authorise, access to the premises to recover your goods.
You must apply within the time limits given above but do not delay.
The maximum compensation the Tribunal can award is $15,000.
Also see Factsheet 11: NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service for help in preparing an application.
Applications by landlord to the Tribunal
A landlord/agent may apply for order/s:
- that a tenant pay an occupation fee
- about how to deal with goods if a tenant dies or abandons the premises.
Updated December 2016