Can we just get rid of the furniture and tools left by the previous owner?

In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the GHP Legal team, proposes to answer some of your problems. Today’s question is answered by senior attorney Rod Waters…

Q: My wife and I bought a house in March from a guy who had just used the property for carpentry. When we got the keys, we found the garage and three sheds filled with oak furniture and tools. We don’t have a forwarding address for him, just a cell phone number that he doesn’t answer. All this stuff is in our way, can we just get rid of it?

A: Although he seems to have abandoned all of these potentially valuable items, the previous owner of your house still legally owns them, and you can’t just get rid of them. By leaving them behind when he is gone, you have effectively become an unwitting custodian of the property and must legally take care of it until the case is resolved.

Before disposing of objects, you will first need to write a “liability notice”. This is a legal document issued under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, which is intended to alert the owner of items that have been left behind that you will dispose of them if they are not recovered within a given time. If you don’t have a forwarding address for him, you should try to make contact in another way, such as texting his phone or through someone local who knows him.

You must attach the liability notice to the items so that they can be seen clearly and take a photo as proof. The tort notice should contain a list of the goods, details of where they are 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, state when and where the sale will take place and confirm that any costs incurred will be deducted from the sale proceeds. A lawyer can help you draft the liability notice.

This question was answered by Rod Waters, senior attorney at GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, that is always possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to deliver our high levels of service to our customers. Whenever possible, we ask that you contact us by phone or email. If you have a new request or for a visit by appointment www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194.

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