Tenants unable to collect belongings

We’ve had numerous calls from landlords whose tenants have given notice and left the property (typically students who’ve returned to their parents’ address) leaving belongings in the property and claiming they’re not permitted to return to uplift their possessions at the moment during the coronavirus “lockdown”.

In this scenario there are a couple of options to consider:

  1. Can the parties agree to extend the tenants’ notice period so that the contract continues? In most cases this is the best solution. Often landlords are prepared to agree this at a significantly reduced rent, or even in some cases no rent at all for the current crisis period, as the alternative is that they will instead have an untenanted property that they will have to pay council tax on and still have the issue of the belongings – see below. Ensure that both parties are clear on what the new end date will be. This can be agreed by exchange of email.
  2. Can the tenants return to collect their possessions? There are four well publicised reasons for being allowed out of your home during “lockdown”. In fact the stay at home legislation for Scotland lists 13 reasonable excuses for leaving home, one of which is “to move house where reasonably necessary”. Arguably if the parties can’t agree to extend the contract it is reasonably necessary for the tenants to travel to remove their possessions.

In most cases if neither of the above happens, the tenancy will end. The landlord should then follow whatever procedure has been agreed in the lease to deal with abandoned possessions. If there is no such clause in the lease then follow the procedure set out in this article by TC Young.

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