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My Personal Property in a Rental

My Personal Property in a Rental

Looking after your personal property when you’re flatting can be a concern. Generally, no one can take your property unless a court says they can. This is true even for landlords and even if you owe them money.

Can my landlord take my property?

No. Generally, your landlord has no right to take your property. Even if you owe them money for rent, they can’t take your property.

If they’re trying to get you to pay them money you owe, they can go to the Tenancy Tribunal. If the Tenancy Tribunal decides you owe your landlord money, they can make orders forcing you to pay your landlord. One of these things might involve selling your property to pay off the debt, but remember that your landlord can’t do this unless they have an order from the Tribunal saying that they can.

Can I take my flatmate’s property if they owe me money?

Just like your landlord can’t take your property, you can’t take your flatmate’s property either, even if they owe you money. If they’re refusing to pay what they owe you, you might need to go to the Disputes Tribunal. Like the Tenancy Tribunal, the Disputes Tribunal can make orders to force your flatmate to pay you. One of these things might involve selling your flatmates property to pay off the debt or attaching an order onto their wages, but you can’t just take their property. If you take your flatmate’s property without a court order, you could be charged with theft.

What should I do if my flatmate abandons their property?

If property has been abandoned, you must make a reasonable attempt to find the owner of the property. If you can’t locate the owner after a reasonable amount of time, then the property can be sold, as it is accepted that the property can’t be stored indefinitely. Storage expenses and associated costs can be deducted from the sale proceeds.

If the ex-flatmate agrees to return and collect their belongings, you have to take reasonable steps to look after it in the meantime. If you have located your ex-flatmate and have asked them to collect their belongings but they fail to do so, you can either make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal (to force them to remove their belongings) or talk to your landlord who may agree to act on your behalf.

It is a good idea to document what you’ve done regarding the abandoned goods in case the matter ends up in the Tribunal.

Can I take my property back if I left it behind when I moved out?

Yes. If you left your properties behind as a tenant, you still have a right to it. The landlord should give you chances to pick it up. If the landlord isn’t able to contact you, they have to put the property into storage for at least 35 days.  If you collect the goods during this time, you will have to pay for any costs of storage.

What happens if I don’t pick up my property within 35 days?

If you still haven’t picked up your property after 35 days, the landlord can apply to the court for permission to sell your property. They can keep any money used to pay for their costs of storing and selling the property. They have to give anything left to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and you can claim it back from the MBIE within a year.

An exception to this is if you left behind personal documents and papers. If you still haven’t picked them up after 35 days, your landlord has to give them to the Police.

Should I have property insurance?

It might be worth thinking about getting some contents insurance. You can get insurance policies that cover you if you ever get things stolen from the house from a break in. There are lots of different kinds of insurance policies and lots of companies to get insurance from. If you do decide to get insurance, make sure you read the insurance policy very carefully. You should make sure you know what it will and won’t cover you for before you agree to it.

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