Sometimes a tenant moves out and leaves some things behind. These may have been left by mistake, forgotten, or left to be picked up later.

If tenants have left things behind, landlords must follow the rules for dealing with these items.

It can be hard to tell if the things left behind are rubbish or something of value. Landlords need to follow these simple rules to protect both themselves and the tenant. These rules apply to all residential tenancies, including boarding houses.

  1. If food or perishable goods have been left behind you can throw these away immediately.
  2. Try to get in touch with the tenant and give them a reasonable amount of time to collect the goods.
  3. If you can’t contact the tenant, or they don’t collect the goods, landlords have two options. More information on each option is outlined below.

Option 1. Apply to the Tenancy Tribunal

The landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for an order on how to deal with the goods.

The Tribunal can order the goods to be:

  • disposed of
  • returned to the tenant, or
  • sold by the landlord.

The Tribunal can also order that the landlord uses any money from selling the goods to offset any claims the landlord has against the tenant.

Landlords must give the Tribunal the tenant’s address for service. If the tenant can’t be served with notice of mediation or a hearing, the Tribunal may not be able to hear the matter.

Option 2: Decide whether to store, dispose of, or sell the goods

Personal documents

If the items left behind are personal documents, the landlord must securely store them. If the documents aren’t claimed after 35 days, the landlord must give them to the police, and get a receipt.

All other goods

The landlord must take reasonable steps to assess how much the goods are worth.

If the goods are worth:

  • less than the cost of storing, transporting and selling them, the landlord can immediately dispose of them as they see fit (except for personal documents).
  • more than the cost of storing, transporting and selling them, the landlord must secure the goods for at least 35 days from the day they took possession of them. After 35 days, they can either:
    • continue to store them to await any claims by the tenant
    • sell the goods at a reasonable market price.

If the landlord sells the goods, they can deduct the cost of storing and selling them from the total amount they make. They can also apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to reclaim from this money anything else the tenant owes them (eg, overdue rent, damage repair, or cleaning costs).

If the total amount made by selling the goods doesn’t cover the costs of storing, transporting and selling them, the landlord can seek the rest of the money from the bond.

To do this, send in the bond refund form (if the tenant left less than two months ago) or apply to the Tenancy Tribunal (if the tenant left more than two months ago). If the bond isn’t enough, the landlord may recover the costs directly from the tenant.

Any extra money made by selling the goods must be sent by cheque to:

Tenancy Services
PO Box 50-445
Porirua 5240

Include a copy of the Tribunal order (if any), so we can make the payment the Tribunal has ordered. The tenant has a year to claim any money from us.

If the tenant wants to claim goods that have been in storage

The tenant can claim goods that have been held in storage. The landlord can then claim for the cost of storage from the tenant. The tenant should give the landlord a receipt for the goods that have been returned.

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