Goods left behind by tenants

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Collecting goods left behind

Tenants or residents who leave goods behind when they vacate (end the tenancy and leave the property) should make arrangements with the landlord or owner to collect them as soon as possible. If these arrangements cannot be made, there are recommended procedures for landlords or owners to follow.

A landlord or owner cannot refuse to return a person’s belongings, even if the person owes rent.

A tenant or resident may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for compensation if they:

  • have suffered a loss because the landlord or owner did not follow the recommended procedures (for example, if they have sold or destroyed the goods without obtaining an inspection and report from Consumer Affairs Victoria, and
  • can prove the goods were worth more than the cost to the landlord or owner of removal, storage and selling of the goods.

If the landlord or owner has obtained a report from Consumer Affairs Victoria and suffered a loss through the cost of removing, storing and auctioning the goods, they may also apply to VCAT for compensation.

Personal documents

Personal documents include official documents, photographs, correspondence, images on still and video cameras, material on computer hard drives and any other documents a person would reasonably be expected to keep.

When personal documents are left behind, the landlord or owner must:

  • take reasonable care of the documents for at least 90 days
  • let the tenant or resident reclaim the documents after repaying any reasonable costs they incurred to remove and store them.

A landlord or owner can be fined for not letting a tenant or resident reclaim documents when they were willing to pay a reasonable amount to cover those costs.

If a landlord or owner complies with the law and the tenant or resident does not claim the documents, the documents can be disposed of. The landlord or owner can then apply to VCAT to be compensated for the cost of looking after and removing the documents.

Goods that can be disposed of

The landlord or owner can dispose of:

  • perishable foods
  • dangerous goods
  • goods of no monetary value.

All other goods must be stored unless removal, notification, storage and auction costs would be more than the monetary value of the combined goods.

Goods that must be stored

If a tenant or resident leaves goods behind that are not allowed to be disposed of, the landlord or owners must: 

  • store the goods for 28 days
  • notify the tenant, within seven days of storing the goods, to arrange collection 
  • let the tenant or resident reclaim the goods after they have paid the costs to cover any reasonable expenses paid by the landlord to remove and store them.

If a rooming house resident or caravan park resident leaves goods behind that are not allowed to be disposed of, the owner must take reasonable:

  • care of the goods
  • steps to notify the resident to arrange collection.

Note: A rooming house is a building where one or more rooms are available to rent, and four or more people in total can occupy those rooms.

Inspection of goods left behind

A landlord or owner may ask Consumer Affairs Victoria to conduct an inspection of goods left behind by first completing a Request for inspection of goods left behind for (Word, 114KB).

An inspector will then visit and advise on what to do with the goods.