IMPORTANT: Our Help Topics are currently undergoing the Public Review process. If you notice any spelling mistakes, mistakes in the information, or parts that are confusing, please LET US KNOW!
Quick Facts
  • A rental premises cannot be considered abandoned unless rent is overdue.
  • In most cases a landlord is required to store abandoned personal property for at least thirty days and must provide a list of stored items to Service NL.
  • A tenant can collect their belongings at any time by paying the landlord for the cost of removing and storing the items.
  • Landlords must provide Service NL with an itemized list of items left behind by a tenant.
  • A landlord cannot hold personal property hostage for any reason, including unpaid rent.
What You Need to Know

Landlords that believe a rental unit has been abandoned must follow a process outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act in order to enter and take possession of the rental unit.

Before a landlord can consider a rental unit abandoned the tenant needs to have moved out without the rental agreement being properly terminated and rent must be overdue.

The first step a landlord needs to take in order to regain possession of an abandoned rental unit is to post a written notice in a clearly visible place at the rental premises. The most common way of doing this is by posting the notice on the door.

The landlord’s notice must be in writing, on paper, and state that the landlord believes that the rental unit has been abandoned. The notice must be posted at the premises at least twenty-four hours before the landlord enters the rental unit and contain the day and hour that the landlord plans to enter the rental unit.

The notice must also state that the landlord plans to enter the rental unit to take possession of it unless the tenant notifies the landlord that the rental unit has not been abandoned. The notification from the tenant does NOT need to be in writing.

If a landlord is notified by a tenant that the rental unit has not been abandoned the landlord shall not enter the rental unit.

 

Abandoned Property

Important Note
These rules do not apply where a landlord and a tenant have made an agreement in writing with respect to the storage of the tenant’s personal property.

When a tenant’s personal property has been abandoned there are rules that the landlord must follow.

Landlords are required under the Residential Tenancies Act to either remove any abandoned property and place it in safe storage, or safely store the abandoned property at the residential premises, for at least thirty days. The landlord must make an inventory of property that has been placed into storage and provide a copy of the list to Service NL. If the landlord knows an address where the tenant can be reached, then a copy of the list should also be provided to the tenant as well.

Landlords are not required to store abandoned property in all cases. Landlords do NOT need to store anything that is of no monetary value, or anything that is unsanitary or unsafe to store. Landlords also do not need to store property in cases where the value of the property, if sold, would be less than the cost of removal and storage of the items. In these cases, the landlord can ask Service NL for permission to dispose of the property.

 

Reclaiming Personal Property

A tenant or owner of abandoned personal property can reclaim their property at any time during the thirty-day storage period by paying the landlord for the reasonable cost of removal and storage of the property. Where a landlord stores personal property at the residential premises, the storage costs charged to reclaim the personal property shall be the standard rate charged by public storage facilities, or the rental rate of the residential premises, whichever is lower.

A landlord cannot hold personal property hostage for any reason, including unpaid rent. If the removal and storage costs have been paid the landlord must return the personal property. If the landlord believes they are owed money for things like unpaid rent or damages, they should file a claim with Service NL.

When a tenant reclaims abandoned property, the landlord should notify Service NL as soon as possible.

 

Sale of Abandoned Property

If a tenant does not reclaim abandoned property within thirty days, the landlord may ask Service NL for permission to sell the items. When abandoned property is sold the landlord is permitted to keep enough money to cover the costs of removal and storage of the items, as well as any money the landlord is owed as a result of a successful claim with Service NL for things such as damage or unpaid rent.

Once the items have been sold the landlord must notify Service NL, along with the amount the items were sold for. Any amount above the cost of removal and storage, and any money the landlord is owed as a result of a successful claim against the tenant, must be paid to Service NL in trust on behalf of the tenant.

If the sale of the property resulted in funds being paid to Service NL in trust, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, the tenant can file a claim with Service NL within a year of the property being sold to have that money returned to them.

Here are a couple of examples to help illustrate this better.

If a tenant leaves $200 worth of personal items behind, and the cost to remove the items and store them for thirty days is $250, the landlord could apply to Service NL for permission to dispose of the items because the value of the items is less than the cost of removal and storage.

However, if a tenant leaves $1000 worth of personal items behind and the cost to remove the items and store them for thirty days is $300, the landlord would be required to store the items for thirty days. If the items are not collected by the tenant within those thirty days, the landlord could sell the items. The landlord would be permitted to keep $300 to cover the cost of removal and storage and would have to send the remaining $700 to Service NL. The tenant could apply to Service NL within one year to claim the $700 they are entitled to for the sale of their belongings.

 

Minimizing Losses

In cases where a rental unit has been abandoned, the tenant may be liable for any losses or harm suffered by the landlord as a result of the tenant’s breach of the Rental Agreement. However, landlords are obligated by law to minimize their losses as much as reasonably possible.

For example, if a tenant signs a year-long Rental Agreement on January 1 but moves out 2 months early on October 31, they are still responsible for paying the rent for the months of November and December since their Rental Agreement didn’t expire until December 31.

However, the landlord cannot just leave the rental unit empty for those two months with the expectation that the tenant is responsible for paying it anyway. The landlord would need to try to re-rent the unit to a new tenant in order to minimize their losses. If the landlord does reasonably try to re-rent the unit and is unsuccessful, the tenant that violated the Rental Agreement would still be responsible for paying the rent for November and December.

The reason for this is that if the tenant didn’t violate their Rental Agreement and move out early the landlord would have had rental income from the rental unit for the months of November and December that the tenant had already agreed to pay. Since the landlord tried to re-rent the unit, and was unsuccessful, the tenant would be responsible for paying the rent for the time they had agreed to in their Rental Agreement.

Tenants that have signed a fixed-term Rental Agreement, like a year-long lease, would only be responsible for paying the rent up until the time it was re-rented, or their Rental Agreement would have expired, whichever is earlier.

Tenants that are renting month to month and have not signed a fixed-term Rental Agreement, would only be responsible for paying the rent up until the time it was re-rented, or their Rental Agreement could have been terminated had the tenant served a valid termination notice, whichever is earlier.

Let’s say, for example, that rent is normally due for a tenant on the first day of the month, and the landlord realizes on September 20 that the rental unit has been abandoned. Normally if the tenant wanted to terminate the Rental Agreement, they would have needed to provide proper notice on October 1, and the Rental Agreement would have been terminated on October 31. In this case the tenant would be liable for paying rent up until October 31 unless the rental unit was re-rented to another tenant before that date.

 

Double-Dipping

A landlord is not allowed to collect rent from two tenants, for the same rental unit, covering the same period of time. For example, if a tenant abandons a rental unit early but the landlord is able to find a new tenant for the following month, the landlord would not be able to file a claim against the original tenant for unpaid rent for any period of time that rent was also being paid by the new tenant.

Was this information helpful?

Files / Documents
This form can be used by a landlord when they believe a rental unit has been abandoned by a tenant.
This form can be used by a landlord to provide a list of property to Service NL that the landlord considered abandoned.
A landlord can use this form to make an application to Service NL for permission to dispose of personal property that was abandoned by a tenant.
A landlord can use this form to make an application to Service NL for permission to sell personal property that was abandoned by a tenant.
Resources
A fact sheet from Service NL that explains the basic obligations of landlords and tenants.
A fact sheet from Service NL that explains the obligations of landlords when a tenant abandons a rental unit or leaves personal property behind.
A fact sheet from Service NL that talks about what happens to personal property left behind by a tenant.
Legislation

Statutory conditions

10. (1) Notwithstanding an agreement, declaration, waiver or statement to the contrary, where the relationship of landlord and tenant exists, there shall be considered to be an agreement between the landlord and tenant that the following statutory conditions governing the residential premises apply:

1. Obligation of the Landlord -

(a) The Landlord shall maintain the residential premises in a good state of repair and fit for habitation during the tenancy and shall comply with a law respecting health, safety or housing.

(b) Paragraph (a) applies regardless of whether, when the landlord and tenant entered into the rental agreement, the tenant had knowledge of a state of non-repair, unfitness for habitation or contravention of a law respecting health, safety or housing in the residential premises.

2. Obligation of the Tenant - The tenant shall keep the residential premises clean, and shall repair damage caused by a wilful or negligent act of the tenant or of a person whom the tenant permits on the residential premises.

3. Assigning or Subletting Residential Premises - The tenant may assign or sublet the residential premises subject to the written consent of the landlord, and the landlord shall not arbitrarily or unreasonably withhold consent and shall not levy a charge in excess of expenses actually incurred by the landlord in relation to giving consent.

4. Mitigation on Abandonment - Where the tenant abandons the residential premises, the landlord shall mitigate damages that may be caused by the abandonment to the extent that a party to a contract is required by law to mitigate damages.

5. Entry of Residential Premises - Except in the case of an emergency, the landlord shall not enter the residential premises without the consent of the tenant unless

(a) notice of termination of the rental agreement has been given and the entry is at a reasonable time for the purpose of showing the residential premises to a prospective tenant or purchaser and a reasonable effort has been made to give the tenant at least 4 hours' notice;

(b) the entry is made at a reasonable time and written notice of the time of the entry has been given to the tenant at least 24 hours in advance of the entry; or

(c) the tenant has abandoned the residential premises under section 31.

6. Entry Doors - Except by mutual consent, neither the landlord nor the tenant shall, during the use or occupancy of the residential premises by the tenant, alter a lock or locking system on a door that gives entry to the residential premises.

7. Peaceful Enjoyment and Reasonable Privacy -

(a) The tenant shall not unreasonably interfere with the rights and reasonable privacy of a landlord or other tenants in the residential premises, a common area or the property of which they form a part.

(b) The landlord shall not unreasonably interfere with the tenant's reasonable privacy and peaceful enjoyment of the residential premises, a common area or the property of which they form a part.

8. Disconnection of Services - A landlord or tenant shall not, without the written consent of the other party to the rental agreement, disconnect or cause to be disconnected heat, water or electric power services being provided to the residential premises.

(2) Where a landlord and tenant enter into a written rental agreement, the statutory conditions set out in subsection (1) shall be reproduced in the rental agreement without variation or modification.

 

Abandonment of residential premises by tenant

31. (1) Where a tenant has abandoned the residential premises, the landlord may enter and take possession of the residential premises.

(2)  A tenant is considered to have abandoned a residential premises where

(a)  the tenant has vacated the residential premises;

(b)  the rental agreement is not terminated in accordance with this Act or the rental agreement; and

(c)  rent is overdue.

(3)  Before entering a residential premises for the purpose of taking possession under subsection (1), the landlord shall, not less than 24 hours before entering, post a notice in a conspicuous place on the residential premises stating

(a)  the landlord's belief that the tenant has abandoned the residential premises;

(b)  the landlord's intention to enter the residential premises for the purpose of taking possession unless the tenant notifies the landlord, before the time set out in the notice, that the tenant has not abandoned the residential premises; and

(c)  the day and hour when the landlord will enter the residential premises.

(4)  Where the tenant notifies the landlord under paragraph (3)(b) that the residential premises have not been abandoned, the landlord shall not enter the residential premises.

 

Abandoned personal property

32. (1) Where a tenant abandons or vacates a residential premises and leaves personal property on the residential premises, the landlord shall either

(a)  remove the personal property and immediately place it in safe storage; or

(b)  store the personal property on the residential premises in a safe manner.

(2)  The personal property stored under subsection (1) shall be stored for not less than 30 days unless the tenant takes possession of the personal property before the 30 days have elapsed.

(3)  A landlord who stores a tenant's personal property under subsection (1) shall, at the earliest reasonable opportunity,

(a)  provide the director with an inventory of the property; and

(b)  provide the tenant with a copy of the inventory, if the landlord can locate the tenant.

(4)  The director may, on application by the landlord under section 42, authorize the landlord to dispose of personal property referred to in subsection (1) where the director believes on reasonable grounds that

(a)  the personal property has no monetary value;

(b)  the cost of removing, storing or selling the personal property would be more than the proceeds of the sale; or

(c)  the storage of the personal property would be unsanitary or unsafe.

(5)  This section does not apply where a landlord and a tenant have made an agreement in writing with respect to the storage of the tenant's personal property.

(6)  The tenant or owner of the personal property may, within the 30 day period referred to in subsection (2), claim and take possession of the personal property by paying the landlord the costs reasonably incurred by the landlord to remove and store the property.

(7)  Where a landlord stores personal property on the residential premises in accordance with subsection (1), the storage costs referenced in subsection (6) shall be the lesser of the standard rate charged by public storage facilities or the rental rate of the residential premises. 

(8)  Where a tenant or owner takes possession of personal property within the 30 day period, the landlord shall notify the director at the earliest reasonable opportunity.

(9)  Where a tenant or owner does not take possession of personal property within the 30 day period, the landlord may sell the personal property subject to the terms and conditions set by the director.

(10)  Where personal property is sold under subsection (9), the landlord

(a)  may keep from the proceeds of the sale, the amount

(i)  of the costs reasonably incurred by the landlord for the removal, storage and sale of the personal property, and

(ii)  necessary to satisfy an order made by the director for compensation payable to the landlord by the tenant; and

(b)  shall, at the earliest reasonable opportunity, deliver to the director

(i)  the proceeds of the sale, less the amount kept under paragraph (a), and

(ii)  a written statement of account regarding the sale and distribution of the proceeds.

(11)  The director shall hold the proceeds delivered by the landlord under subparagraph (10)(b)(i) in trust for the tenant or owner of the personal property in an interest bearing trust account in a financial institution located in the province authorized to accept deposits.

(12)  Where proceeds held in trust by the director are not claimed under subsection (11) within one year after the sale, the director shall remit the proceeds, together with interest earned, to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

(13)  Where a tenant or a person claims to be the owner of personal property sold under subsection (9), the director under subsection (11) or the Minister of Finance under subsection (12) shall, upon satisfactory proof of the claim, pay the proceeds to that tenant or person.

 

Seizure of property

33. A landlord shall not take a tenant's personal property to compensate for a contravention of an obligation by the tenant, including a failure to pay rent.