Q&A Can we just get rid of furniture left behind by previous homeowner?

Q:      My wife and I bought a house in March, from a chap who had just used the property as a joiner’s shop. When we got the keys, we found the garage and three sheds were full of oak furniture and tools. We have no forwarding address for him, just a mobile number that he doesn’t answer. All this stuff is in our way, can we just get rid of it?

A:       Despite appearing to have abandoned all these potentially valuable items, the previous owner of your house does still legally own them, and you cannot just ‘get rid’ of them. By him leaving them behind when he left, you have effectively become an involuntary bailee of the goods and legally must take care of them until the matter is resolved.

Prior to disposal of the items, you will first need to draw up a ‘Torts notice’. This is a legal document issued in accordance with the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, which aims to alert the owner of the items that have been abandoned to the fact that you are going to dispose of them if they are not collected within a given time. If you have no forwarding address for him, you should attempt to make contact in another way, for example by texting to his phone, or through someone locally who knows him.

You should attach the Torts notice to the items so that they can be clearly viewed and take a photograph as evidence. The Torts notice should contain a list of the goods, details of where they are being kept and how long you will keep them before disposing of them – this should be at least 14 days. If you intend to sell the goods, give details of when and where the sale is to take place, and confirm that any incurred fees will be deducted from the sale proceeds. A solicitor can assist you with drawing up the Torts notice.

This question has been answered by Rod Waters, a Senior Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194