RTA webinar: When a tenant abandons a rental property

When a tenant leaves the rental property permanently without following the process of providing or receiving a notice to end the tenancy, it is considered abandonment. 

While abandonment may not happen often, it is important for property managers/owners to know what steps to take should this occur and how to end the tenancy, providing they have reasonable grounds for believing the property has been abandoned. The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 outlines the ways a tenancy can end.  

This webinar will step you through the situation of how to handle an abandoned room or property, including spotting the first signs indicating the tenant has left and the first action to take before you can formally end the tenancy. We also look at the two options to end a tenancy on the grounds of abandonment and what to do with goods and documents left behind. 

Determining whether the rental property has been abandoned 

There are many factors the property manager/owner needs to consider when assessing the situation. This may include rent not being paid, failing to reach the tenant after multiple attempts to contact them, absent household items, neighbour advising the tenant has left, or utilities being disconnected. On noticing these giveaway signs, the property manager/owner must first serve an Entry Notice and provide 24 hours notice to enter the rental property to assess the situation. 

Ending a tenancy on the grounds of abandonment 

On inspection after entering the property, if the property is empty or all signs and evidence show that the tenant has abandoned the rental property, the property manager/owner can choose to end the tenancy on the grounds of abandonment. They can either issue an Abandonment notice providing 7 days notice or apply to QCAT to end the tenancy. 

In these situations, you should keep photos and documents as evidence to support your decision in determining whether the rental property has been abandoned. If the process is not followed and well documented, or the tenant has been found to have not abandoned the property, the tenant may be able to seek compensation. 

What to do with goods and personal documents left behind? 

Any personal documents such as birth certificates and family photos need to be given to the Office of the Public Trustee. Property managers/owners need to assess all items left behind before they can be thrown away. The RTA recommends developing an inventory and taking photos to support your decisions of storing, selling or disposing of the items. This situation is not straightforward and you may need to value the goods to determine their worth. View the RTA’s goods and documents left behind factsheet for more details on this process. 

Important reminder 

If a tenant has left without ending the tenancy or you suspect they have abandoned the property, you must still serve an entry notice before entering the property, end the tenancy by following the correct processes, and assess what has been left behind. It is crucial to record and gather evidence as to why and how you have made decisions around ending the tenancy and dealing with the items left behind. 

Original publication on 23 Feb 2021
Last updated on 24 Feb 2021

Note: While the RTA makes every reasonable effort to ensure that information on this website is accurate at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after publication may impact on the accuracy of material. This disclaimer is in addition to and does not limit the application of the Residential Tenancies Authority website disclaimer.