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Goods left behind by renters or residents

Information about property including caravans, papers, household goods that are left behind when rental agreement ends.

If a renter, resident or site tenant abandons goods when they leave a property, the rental provider, rooming house operator, site owner or caravan park owner must deal with the goods by following the procedures set out in Part 9 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic). The provisions on this page use the term 'renter' but this applies equally to people living in rooming houses, caravans or residential parks.

The procedures are different depending on the kind of goods that have been left behind. The rental provider must try to get in touch with the renter if personal documents or general goods have been left behind.

There are also goods prescribed in the regulations, which must not be removed and destroyed or otherwise disposed of.

See Part 9—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Goods the rental provider may dispose of immediately

The rental provider may not destroy personal documents but they may destroy or dispose of any goods that are:

  • of no monetary value
  • perishable foodstuffs
  • dangerous.

Exception

The rental provider must not dispose of goods prescribed in the regulations. These are:

  • labelled containers or labelled urns containing human remains
  • specialised medical devices, equipment or goods including prostheses
  • prescription medication
  • medals and trophies.

See ss. 384—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What are personal documents?

Personal documents are:

  • official documents
  • photographs
  • correspondence, or
  • any other document which it would be reasonable to expect that a person would want to keep.

See s. 3—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

How personal documents must be treated

If a former renter leaves behind personal documents, the landlord or agent may remove, but must take reasonable care of them for at least 90 days.

The rental provider or agent must also take reasonable steps to notify the former renter about when and where the documents may be collected.

If the documents are not claimed within 90 days, the documents can be destroyed (unless they are protected under another law). The rental provider may claim the reasonable cost of storage of the documents from the Residential Tenancies Fund.

If the former renter wants to collect the documents, they will have to pay the rental provider the reasonable costs involved in removing and storing the documents.

See ss. 380, 381 382—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

See Form 23—Schedule 1—Sheriff's Notice of retained personal documents—Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Penalty

If the owner of the documents comes to collect them and pays for the costs of storage, the owner of the premises must not refuse to hand over the documents.

The maximum penalty is:

  • 120 penalty units (for a person)
  • 750 for a body corporate (company)

If the offence is dealt with by issue of an infringement, the penalty will be 12 penalty units.

See s. 382(2)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and item 102 Schedule 5—Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

How general goods must be treated

If a former renter leaves behind other goods, the owner of the premises must:

  • take reasonable steps to give a notice to the owner using the approved form, telling them of the goods left behind
  • store the goods for at least 14 days (date begins from when notice is given to the former renter)

This notice must include a statement informing a renter about their rights and obligations in relation to the goods.

The owner may remove the goods from the former rental and store them in a safe place.

See 'Notice of Goods left behind' in Renting—General renting forms—Consumer Affairs Victoria—Forms and publications(opens in a new window).

Collecting the goods left behind

A former renter or anyone who is entitled to the goods may reclaim the goods at any time before they are disposed of or destroyed. The person must pay a fee to the owner if the quantity of stored goods is enough to prevent the owner from renting out the premises.

This amount must not exceed the amount that would be payable under the former rental agreement for each day the goods are stored up to a maximum of 14 days.

The rental provider can apply to VCAT if they are seeking an amount higher than this.

See s. 388—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

VCAT may order goods to be stored for longer

A former renter may apply to VCAT seeking that the goods be held for longer than 14 days. If VCAT grants this order, the owner of the goods must pay a fee that is equal to the rental owed for each day that the goods are stored.

See s. 388(3)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Caravans and mobile homes left behind

Before a caravan or a moveable dwelling can be dealt with as an abandoned good the site owner has to apply to VCAT for a notice of abandonment.

See Caravans and mobile homes.

Renter's goods in lieu of rent

A rental provider must not take any goods that are owned by the renter because the renter owes rent.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is 60 penalty units or 12 penalty units if the matter is dealt with by issue of an infringement notice.

See s. 49—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and item 18, Schedule 5—Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Goods left in share house, boarder or house guest

In situations where there has not been a formal rental agreement between the person who is in possession of the goods and the owner of the goods (person who left the goods behind) the laws about uncollected goods that are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) do not apply. For example, this might happen:

  • in share house situations or
  • when a visitor leaves their goods behind.

See Goods left by housemates, boarders, friends or ex-partners.

Personal property and family violence

In situations where police or a person affected by family violence has applied for a family violence intervention order (FVIO), the protected person may seek a condition in their order that allows them to get basic personal property that they need including cooking items, children's things, even if this property is jointly owned. The order may also require the other party to return this property.

The police are reluctant to get involved in helping to get this property and in the police code for dealing with family violence, they suggest that the affected person get help from another person. However, it may be a contravention of the FVIO if the other party (respondent) does not comply with this order. Police may apply for a search warrant to investigate a contravention.

See Family violence intervention orders—Conditions in FVIOS—Personal property.

Treatment of unclaimed money

If the rental provider has kept the goods stored for 14 days (from the date the former renter is notified of the uncollected goods) and

  • they have not agreed to store them for a longer period
  • VCAT has not made an order for the goods to be stored for longer

the rental provider may sell or dispose of the uncollected goods in any lawful manner.

See s. 391—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

If goods are sold

The renter may ask for the proceeds from goods that have been sold. They have 6 months from the date of sale to ask for the money.

The rental provider must pay the renter the money from the sold goods, excluding the cost:

  • of storage
  • of selling to goods.

If the renter does not make a claim for the goods within 6 months, the rental provider must pay the money into the Residential Tenancies Fund within 30 days of the end of the 6-month period.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for failing to lodge the proceeds of sale is 30 penalty units.

Buyer takes good title

If the sale is lawfully conducted the buyer of the goods has good title unless the purchaser knew:

  • of any defect in the title of the former renter (so if for example, the renter's washing machine was under a hire purchase agreement, or if the goods belonged to another and the buyer knew this), or
  • if the rental provider had not followed the proper procedure for sale.

See s. 392, 394—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines 'personal documents'
  • s. 49—rental provider is not to take a renter's goods to recoup rent owed
  • Part 9—goods left behind by renters and residents
    • s. 379—defines 'owner of premises', 'stored goods'
    • s. 380—if personal documents are left behind by a renter or resident
    • s. 381—disposal of personal documents after 90 days
    • s. 382—reclaiming personal documents before disposal
    • s. 384—disposal of certain goods left behind
    • s. 386—what rental provider can do about goods which are left behind
    • s. 387—what a renter can do to reclaim goods left behind
    • s. 388—occupation fee (money the rental provider can charge for storage)
  • s. 388A—obligation of a site owner to take reasonable care of goods left behind
  • s. 389—rightful owner may reclaim stored goods before sale
  • ss. 390, 390A—if dwelling or caravan is left behind when person moves
  • s. 391—sale of stored goods

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)

  • Schedule 5—matters that can be dealt with by issue of an infringement notice

See Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Tenants Victoria

See Tenants Victoria—Goods left behind(opens in a new window).

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Consumer Affairs Victoria has information to explain what happens if someone leaves their goods behind when they move.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Goods left behind by renters(opens in a new window).

Updated