Renting in London:the accidental landlord says outgoing tenants must take their belongings with them - or face a fine

Tenants who abandon everything from piles of porn mags to battered microwaves when they leave will pay a financial penalty.

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One of the infuriating things about tenants is the amount of junk they leave behind.

They think nothing of abandoning unwanted furniture, kitchen cupboards full of chipped crockery, piles of porn mags, wardrobes full of old clothes and, piled outside the back door, bags and bags and bags of general household rubbish .

I used to write to tenants asking them to remove all their belongings and rubbish when they left, but most of them ignored me.

Too lazy or disorganised to get rid of furniture they no longer wanted, one or two even pretended that they had left the items as gifts for the next tenants.

It is almost worse when tenants saunter off leaving bags of rubbish piled high outside a property, as the refuse collectors in some London boroughs won’t take anything that’s not inside a wheelie bin.

That means I have to drive their smelly bin bags to the tip myself, or try to sneak it all into my neighbours’ bins.

After making countless trips to the dump, I started to threaten tenants with financial penalties for abandoned items. Now I write to them a couple of weeks before they move out, warning them that they will be charged £20 for each item or bag of rubbish not left in a bin. The charge might sound steep but having driven for miles to a municipal dump and then had to sort through a tenant’s bin bags and separate plastic from paper from potato peelings, I think my service comes cheap.

What makes me fume even more is that, technically speaking, I am not actually allowed to automatically chuck away anything a tenant leaves behind. The law says landlords have to store a tenant’s belongings for a “reasonable” time before disposing of them. As far as I’m aware the law doesn’t specify how long is “reasonable”.

You’ve also got to give tenants written notice if you are going to chuck anything away and you can’t go ahead and sling it until the notice has expired. Crazy. Where are we supposed to store this stuff? What if they leave behind a three-piece suite? Or a chest freezer?

I don’t want their rubbish in my house for months, so now I insert a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that items left behind will be disposed of after two weeks. Also, I impose a storage charge of £5 per item per day.

These financial penalties have worked with most of my tenants — but when one woman moved out, she wrote to say that she was going to charge me for some of the things she intended to leave behind. She wanted £100 for a second-hand vacuum cleaner, an iron and ironing board and a microwave.

It was a bargain, she said, like she was doing me a favour by selling me things I didn’t want. I had to laugh at her cheek, but she didn’t see the funny side when I deducted the disposal fee from her deposit.

Perhaps next time she moves she will take her belongings with her — all of them.

Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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