Goods left behind or uncollected in caravan and residential parks

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Establish what rules to follow

If the belongings – including perishables, caravans and vehicles - were left behind by a:

  • caravan park resident (someone who had your written permission to live at the park, or lived there for at least 60 days without a break) - you must follow the rules for goods left behind under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. See Scenario 1 below
  • site tenant (someone who owns their movable dwelling but rents the underlying land in a caravan or residential park) - you must follow the rules for goods left behind under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. See Scenario 2 below
  • holidaymaker or a person not using the site as their main residence (staying less than 60 consecutive days) - you must follow the uncollected goods rules set out by Victoria’s fair trading laws. An example of this is when occasional holidaymakers decide not to return to your park and abandon their old caravan, rather than remove it. See Scenario 3 below.

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.

Personal documents left by someone who stays less than 60 consecutive days are ‘uncollected goods’ under Victoria’s fair trading laws.

You must treat such documents according to their value. While most documents are usually low-value on their face, some – such as a passport – are valuable.

You should return valuable documents to their owner or to a relevant organisation, government agency or local Victoria Police station.

For more information, view our Uncollected goods and vehicles section.

Personal documents left behind by a resident or site tenant must be treated as ‘goods left behind’ under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

For personal documents that are ‘goods left behind’, you 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 you incurred to remove and store them.

As a park operator, you can be fined for not letting a tenant or resident reclaim personal documents when they were willing to pay a reasonable amount to cover those costs.

If you have complied with the law and the site tenant or resident does not claim the personal documents, the documents can be disposed of (this may mean returning the documents to an organisation – for example, returning a passport to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

You can then apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to seek compensation for the cost of looking after and removing the personal documents.

Scenario 1 - Caravans, belongings and vehicles left behind by caravan park residents

You must deal with caravans, belongings and vehicles left behind by caravan park residents as ‘goods left behind’ under Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Get legal permission

If the resident did not give notice, apply to VCAT for an Order of Abandonment to deal with items they have left behind. This is not necessary if the resident gave notice.

Then, to deal with:

  • the caravan and things in it, or a vehicle left on a site: you must apply to VCAT for a possession order. This gives you legal possession of the caravan site but does not authorise you to remove:
    • any goods from the site
    • the caravan or any things in it
    • a vehicle or any things in it
  • belongings on the site - not in a caravan or vehicle: follow the rules on our Goods left behind page.

If other people are occupying the site, you can also apply to VCAT for a Warrant of Possession. The warrant:

  • authorises Victoria Police or the authorised person to enter to remove anybody occupying the premises
  • does not allow Victoria Police to remove any goods from the premises
  • must not be executed before 8:00 am or after 6:00 pm, or on a Sunday or public holiday
  • is valid for a specified length of time after it is issued. This is usually 14 days, but VCAT can order that it remain valid for up to 30 days.

On the application form, you can indicate how you want the warrant issued (by fax or post) and whether it is issued to:

  • the owner or manager. If you want Victoria Police to execute the warrant on the rented premises, you must then take the letter and warrant to the police station specified
  • a Victoria Police station nominated by VCAT (usually close to the park address).The police will wait for you to contact them about executing the warrant. You will receive a letter to let you know the warrant has been sent to the police and how to contact them.

You must contact the Victoria Police station if you decide the warrant should not be executed.

Step 2: Advise VCAT that the possession order and warrant have been executed

You must return the order and warrant to the VCAT Principal Registrar with written notice that it was executed. The Registrar will notify the Sheriff, who will remove the caravan and deal with any goods left in it.

Step 3: Contact us

Contact us for a free, independent assessment of goods or vehicles outside of the caravan. We will provide advice about how to dispose of the items. For more information about what may be required, view our Goods left behind page.

Step 4: Keep records

Protect your business by keeping records, including the goods’ value and the disposal process.

Scenario 2 - Movable dwellings, belongings and vehicles left behind by site tenants

For items left by site tenants (people who own their movable dwelling but rent the underlying land in caravan and residential parks):

  • follow procedures for dealing with goods left behind under Victoria’s residential tenancy laws. View our Goods left behind page
  • you can contact us for a free and independent inspection and assessment of the goods. We will provide advice about how to dispose of the items
  • protect your business by keeping records, including the goods’ value and the disposal process.

If a site tenant abandons their movable dwelling, it must be treated as goods left behind.

Scenario 3 - Goods left behind by holidaymakers or people staying less than 60 days

For items left behind by holidaymakers or people staying less than 60 consecutive days, you must follow the procedures for dealing with uncollected goods and vehicles under Victoria's fair trading laws.

There are different procedures for:

For more information, view our Uncollected goods and vehicles section.

Note: A caravan is not a vehicle and must be treated according to its value as an ‘uncollected good’ – as must anything left in it that is not a fixture (including personal documents). The contents must be treated separately to the caravan. 

For example, if an abandoned caravan is worth $3000, you must follow the rules for medium-value uncollected goods. If that caravan contains an old television worth $50, the television is a low-value uncollected good and must be treated accordingly.

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