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.

Landlords must follow the rules for dealing with abandoned goods

It can be difficult to judge if the things left behind are rubbish or something of value. Landlords might be tempted to discard it all – especially if there’s a new tenant waiting to move in.

The landlord should follow a few simple rules to protect both themselves and the tenant. These rules apply to all residential tenancies, including boarding house tenancies.

The only thing the landlord can throw away immediately is food or perishable goods.

The landlord should ask the tenant to collect the goods

If the landlord can contact the tenant, they should ask them to collect the goods. If the landlord gives them a reasonable amount of time, this may fix the problem.

If the tenant doesn’t collect the goods

If the landlord can’t contact the tenant, or the tenant doesn’t collect the goods, the landlord has two options.

1. The landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal

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

Making an application for an Order of the Tenancy Tribunal information for landlords.

The Tribunal can order for the goods to be:

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

The Tribunal can also order that the money made by selling the goods is used to offset any claims the landlord may have against the tenant.

It’s important that the landlord gives the tenant’s address for service to the Tribunal so the tenant can be served with notices of mediations and Tenancy Tribunal hearings. If the tenant can’t be served with these notices, the Tribunal may not be able to hear the matter.

2. The landlord must decide whether to store, dispose of, or sell the goods

Personal documents

The landlord must securely store any personal documents left by the tenant. Personal papers unclaimed after 35 days must be given to the Police, and the landlord must get a receipt.

All other goods

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

If the value of the goods is 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).

If the value of the goods is 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 continue to store them to await any claims by the tenant. Or they can 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 (for example, overdue rent, damage repair, and cleaning costs).

If the total amount made by selling the goods doesn’t cover the landlord’s costs of storing, transporting and selling them, they may seek the money owing from the bond, if there is one. To do this, the landlord can send in the bond refund form (if the tenant left less than 2 months ago) or apply to the Tenancy Tribunal (if the tenant left more than 2 months ago). If the bond is not enough, the landlord may recover the costs directly from the tenant.

Download the Bond refund form below.

Any extra money made by selling the goods must be paid to Tenancy Services at PO Box 50-445, Porirua 5240. The landlord needs to send the money in by cheque. They should 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 claim for the cost of storage from the tenant. The tenant should give the landlord a receipt for the goods that have been returned.

Abandoned goods flowchart

Abandoned goods flowchart explains how to decide what to do with abandoned goods.