Goods left behind

If you left things behind when you moved out, the rental provider (landlord), owner or their agent must follow all steps in the law – the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 – to keep them safe and get them back to you. If your things are lost or damaged, and the rental provider (landlord), owner or agent did not follow the law, you can claim compensation.

Our top tips

Contact the rental provider (landlord), or owner or their agent as soon as you can and arrange a time to pick things up.

Collect your things as soon as possible – the longer you wait, the more there is a chance they could get lost, or you may have to pay for storage.

It is also a good idea to leave a forwarding address, email address and phone number with the rental provider, owner or agent, or the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) – if an application has been made by you or someone else – and for the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) on your bond claim form. This will make it easier for you to be contacted about anything you left behind.

Scope of the law

The laws on what happens to goods left behind apply to rented premises where the renter has a tenancy agreement. The laws also apply to rooming houses, caravan parks and ‘part 4A’ sites. People who let out rented premises with a tenancy agreement to renters are referred to in the law as rental providers (formerly landlords). The people who rent accommodation or sites in rooming houses, caravan parks and ‘part 4A’ sites are referred to in the law as owners or operators.

Personal documents

The rental provider, owner or agent must take care of any personal documents you left behind – for example, official documents, photographs and letters – for at least 90 days. During this time, they can remove them for safekeeping but must not destroy or dispose of them [section 380].

Note that on this page sections in brackets, such as [section 380], refer to sections in Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Informing you on collection

The rental provider must take reasonable steps to let you know how you can collect the documents [section 380].

Do I have to pay to get my documents back?

The rental provider, owner or agent can only ask you to pay reasonable costs for removing and taking care of your documents and notifying you about where and when you can collect them [section 382].

If you pay the costs they must not refuse to return your documents, even if you owe them money for other reasons such as overdue rent, also called rent arrears [section 382].

It is an offence to refuse to return your personal documents after you paid the costs. The rental provider, owner or agent can be fined [section 382].

If the costs are unreasonable

If you think the amount they are asking for is unreasonable you can apply to VCAT to resolve the dispute.

What happens if you cannot pick documents up within 90 days

It is important that you collect your documents before the 90 days is up, because otherwise they can be disposed of. The 90 days starts from the date the rental provider, owner or agent tells you, not the date you moved out [section 381].

In some cases, documents may be protected by another law that means the rental provider or owner must not destroy them. For example, anyone who finds a passport is required to hand it to the nearest Australian passport office, Australian diplomatic mission, consulate or local police station.

Other belongings

Things that must be stored

The rental provider, owner or agent must store any goods or belongings you left behind for at least 14 days.

However, they do not need to store things that are:

  • Not worth any money
  • Perishable foods
  • Dangerous

These may be removed and destroyed or disposed of [section 384].

Exceptions – ‘protected goods’

Some ‘protected goods’ must also be stored safely for at least 14 days, even if they do not have any monetary value. These are:

  • Medals or trophies
  • Specialised medical devices and equipment, including prostheses
  • Prescription medication
  • Labelled containers or urns containing human remains [section 384, section 386, regulation 93]

Informing you about storage

The rental provider, owner or agent must take reasonable steps to let you know that your belongings have been stored and explain how you can get them back and what your rights are about the things you left behind [section 386].

When the 14 days start

The 14 days for storage start on the date the rental provider, owner or agent tells you they are storing your things, not on the date you moved out [section 386].

What happens to belongings if you cannot collect them in time

It is important that you collect your belongings in time, because after 14 days, plus any extra days agreed to or ordered by VCAT, the rental provider or owner can sell or dispose of your things. The 14 days starts from the date the rental provider, owner or agent tells you they are storing your things, not from the date you moved out [sections 386 and   391].

If you need extra time to collect belongings

You can ask the rental provider, owner or agent to store your belongings for more than 14 days. If they refuse, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to order them to store your belongings for more than 14 days [section 395].

When you are charged an ‘occupation fee’

If the amount of goods you left behind stops the rental provider, owner or agent from renting the property, they can ask you to pay an occupation fee for the number of days they had to store your belongings [section 388].

If you pay the occupation fee, the rental provider, owner or agent must not refuse to return your belongings, even if you owe them money for other reasons such overdue rent, also called rent arrears [section 387].

How much you have to pay

The daily occupation fee must not be more than the daily rent. For example, if your goods were stored for 14 days you could be asked to pay an occupation fee equivalent to 14 days rent [section 388].

In some cases, VCAT may order that a higher fee can be charged [sections 395A and 401]. If there is a VCAT hearing for this reason, make sure you go so you can have your say on why higher fees should not be allowed.

What happens if your belongings are put up for sale

You can claim your belongings at any time before they are sold if you pay the occupation fee [section 387].

If your belongings are sold, you can ask for the money from the sale, minus any fees and costs for storing your belongings and arranging for the sale. You need to ask within 6 months of the sale. If you do not, any money left over will be paid to the Residential Tenancies Fund. You will not be able to get that money back [section 392].

If belongings are not returned

If the rental provider, or owner or their agent refuses to give you back your belongings or documents you can apply to VCAT for an order that they have to return them, or an order that they have to pay you compensation [section 397].

If belongings are lost, damaged or disposed of

If the rental provider, owner or agent damages or loses your belongings or personal documents, either on purpose or by accident, you can apply to VCAT for compensation [section 398].

If the rental provider, owner or agent destroys, disposes of, or sells your belongings or personal documents without following the steps in the law, you can apply to VCAT for compensation [section 396].

Resources

Related pages

Was this page helpful?

Cookies and Privacy:This site uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Find out more Accept