The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (the Act) contains provisions dealing with goods and documents that are left behind by tenants when they leave or abandon premises.
Goods and documents may only be dealt with in the manner described in this fact sheet once the tenancy agreement has ended and the lessor/agent reasonably believes that the goods and documents have been abandoned.
Failure to deal with goods and documents in the way described below can be reported to the Compliance and Enforcement Unit of the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) and may incur penalties.
The tenancy agreement must be ended
The tenancy agreement must be ended before the lessor/agent can remove any goods and documents that are left by the tenant.
See the Ending a tenancy agreement for tenants/residents fact sheet, Ending a tenancy agreement for managing parties fact sheet and Lease break, abandonment and goods left behind fact sheet for more information about ending agreements.
Personal documents left behind
Documents are defined in the Act to mean personal documents and money.
Personal documents (for example: money, birth certificates, photographs) must be given to the tenant. The lessor/agent must make a reasonable effort to contact the tenant about any found items.
If the tenant cannot be contacted, the personal documents must be given to the Office of the Public Trustee, within seven days of the end of the tenancy.
The Public Trustee does not take passports, Medicare cards, driver licences or bank cards, they remain the property of the issuer (e.g. a Medicare card should be returned to the Department of Human Services).
Disposal of goods
After the tenancy agreement has ended, the lessor/agent may dispose of the goods left behind by the tenant where:
- the total market value of the goods is less than $1500, or
- storage of the goods would be unhealthy or unsafe, or
- storage of the goods would cause their market value to be completely or substantially reduced, or
- the cost of removing, storing and selling the goods would be greater than the amount raised in the sale of the goods.
The lessor/agent can refer to external sources to determine and document whether the goods left behind meet the above categories. For example:
- online price listings for similar second-hand items
- quotes from second-hand dealers
- storage quotes.
If the goods do not fall into one of the above categories, the lessor/agent must store the goods for one month. If the goods are a moveable dwelling, the contents of a moveable dwelling, or other goods used in the occupation of a moveable dwelling, they must be stored for three months.
Sale of goods left behind
After the storage period has expired, the goods must be disposed of by auction unless the Tribunal orders their disposal by another method. The lessor/agent may apply to the Tribunal for an order about disposal of the goods.
A notice of the auction must be placed in a newspaper circulating in the area where the goods were abandoned. The notice must describe the goods and state the day, time and place of the auction, which must be at least seven days after the notice is published.
The lessor/agent may deduct costs for the removal, storage and sale of the goods from the money raised through the sale. Any money remaining from the proceeds of the sale must be paid to the Public Trustee within 10 days of the sale.
The lessor/agent may apply to the Tribunal to claim money from the sale proceeds for costs such as rent arrears, cleaning or damage to the premises caused by the tenant.
Tenants claiming goods
A lessor/agent must not refuse a tenant, or another owner of goods, access to their goods and must not withhold their goods. However, the tenant may be asked to pay the storage and removal costs before their goods are released.
Seizure of a tenant’s goods and documents in exchange for rent owing or other damages (e.g. repairs or cleaning) is not permitted by the Act. A lessor/agent may be subject to a penalty if they unlawfully seize or withhold the tenant’s property.
Theft of goods and documents can be treated as a criminal matter and can be reported to the Police.
People dissatisfied with the process
If the tenant (or a person other than the tenant, who is the owner of goods) is dissatisfied with the way in which a lessor/agent has dealt with goods, they can make an urgent application to the Tribunal for the matter to be considered. The Tribunal may make orders for compensation or other orders which may be appropriate.
For more information contact the Residential Tenancies Authority.
Accessing RTA forms
The RTA’s forms can be obtained electronically or in person by contacting us.
If you need interpreting assistance to help you understand this information, contact Translationz on (07) 2000 4600 during RTA hours of business and ask to speak to the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA).