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Tenants who leave their belongings behind at end of tenancy

This article offers advice and information for New South Wales tenants in relation to the issue of goods left behind at rental properties.

What are goods?

‘Goods’ are anything left behind by a tenant at a property once the tenancy agreement has ended.

Goods can be:

  • Ordinary goods.
  • Personal goods.
  • Perishable and waste goods.

What are ‘ordinary’ goods?

Ordinary goods include belongings such as clothing, books and ornaments.

What are ‘personal’ goods?

Personal goods include personal documents, certificates or identification such as any of the following:

  • Birth certificates.
  • Passports.
  • Identity documentation.
  • Driving licence/ other licences.
  • Qualifications.
  • Bank statements/ financial statements or documents.
  • Personal memorabilia.
  • Photographs.

What happens to goods left at a rental property?

If goods are left behind at a property at the end of a tenancy the landlord may dispose of them providing they give the tenant notice of disposal.

Landlords may dispose of perishable goods and rubbish at any time without notice, but must give tenants notice about the disposal of ordinary and personal goods and an opportunity to collect them.

What is the correct notice of disposal?

Landlords must give tenants notice that failure to claim goods that have been left at a premises will result in disposal.

  • Ordinary goods may be disposed of after a period of 2 weeks.
  • Personal goods may be disposed of after a period of 90 days.

Your landlord may use any of the following methods to notify a tenant:

  • Orally (in person).
  • Via telephone.
  • Via post. (4 extra days must be allowed).

Claiming goods before disposal:

You are entitled to collect your goods from your landlord at any agreed time. To arrange a time that is convenient you should telephone or write to your landlord stating when you are available. Your landlord must release your goods and must not charge you for returning them.

Some landlords charge an occupation fee for holding goods. This can be equivalent of one day’s rent for each day the goods are held. This fee cannot exceed the amount for 2 week’s rent.

How do landlords dispose of goods?

This depends on the type of goods that are being held. Landlords must dispose of goods legally.

Disposal of ordinary goods:

Ordinary goods may be collected by the local council, donated to charitable organizations or sold. If ordinary goods are sold the landlord must record sales.

Disposal of personal documents/ goods:

If you fail to collect or claim personal documents the landlord must make an effort to return the documents to the relevant issuing authorities. If this is not possible then they may be disposed of. The disposal method must ensure that any personal information is destroyed/ does not become public.


The NCAT processes disputes regarding goods that have been left behind at a property. You can apply to the NCAT for any of the following orders:

  • That the landlord returns your goods. Applications should be made within 3 months.
  • That the landlord grants you access to a property for the purpose of recovering your goods.
  • That the landlord pays you compensation for unlawful disposal of goods. This order should be applied for within 30 days of the disposal.
  • That the landlord pays you compensation because goods left at a property were damaged before you claimed them. You should apply for this order within 30 days.
  • That the landlord makes a payment to you equal to the amount they received from the sale of goods.

The NCAT can authorize a maximum compensation payment of $15,000.

It is advised that all applications to the NCAT are made as soon as possible. Delaying could greatly affect the outcome of the tribunal so try to submit applications in a timely manner.

Landlord applications to the NCAT:

If a tenant leaves goods behind at a property the landlord can apply for the following:

  • That an occupation fee is paid by the tenant.
  • For advice and assistance in the case that a tenant dies or abandons the premises.


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