What To Do When A Tenant Leaves Belongings Behind In South Africa?

When a tenant vacates a rental property, it is not uncommon for them to leave some of their belongings behind. As a landlord or property owner in South Africa, it is important to know how to handle this situation legally and ethically. In this article, we will guide you through the steps you need to take when a tenant leaves their belongings behind.

1. Review the Lease Agreement

The first step is to carefully review the lease agreement that was signed between you and the tenant. The agreement may contain specific clauses regarding abandoned property and the responsibilities of both parties. This will provide you with a framework for dealing with the situation.

2. Contact the Tenant

Once you have reviewed the lease agreement, reach out to the tenant in writing or via phone to inform them that they have left their belongings behind. Provide them with a deadline by which they need to collect their items. This deadline should be reasonable, typically ranging from 7 to 14 days.

3. Document the Abandoned Property

Take photographs or videos of the abandoned property to create a comprehensive inventory. This will serve as evidence in case there are any disputes or claims made by the tenant in the future. Make sure to document the condition of the items as well.

4. Store the Belongings

While waiting for the tenant to collect their belongings, it is your responsibility to store them safely. You can either store the items on the property or arrange for off-site storage. If you choose off-site storage, keep all receipts and records for any costs incurred. This will be important if you decide to claim any expenses from the tenant later on.

5. Notify the Tenant of Storage Costs

If you have incurred costs for storing the tenant’s belongings, notify them of these costs in writing. Include copies of the receipts and records as evidence. Ensure that the notification is sent through a traceable means of communication, such as registered mail or email with read receipts.

6. Establish a Deadline for Collection

Once the tenant has been notified of the storage costs, provide them with a new deadline for collecting their belongings. This deadline should be reasonable and allow the tenant sufficient time to make arrangements. Again, 7 to 14 days is typically considered reasonable.

7. Consider Legal Proceedings

If the tenant fails to collect their belongings after the notified deadline, you may need to consider legal action. Consult with a legal professional who specializes in landlord-tenant disputes to understand your rights and obligations. They can guide you through the legal process of disposing of the abandoned property.

8. Dispose of the Abandoned Property

If the tenant does not respond to your notifications or fails to collect their belongings within the specified deadline, you can proceed with disposing of the abandoned property. However, you must do so in accordance with the laws and regulations of South Africa. Consult with your legal professional to ensure you follow the correct procedures for disposal.

9. Provide a Final Account

After the abandoned property has been disposed of, provide the tenant with a final account detailing the costs incurred for storing and disposing of their belongings. This will help ensure transparency and avoid any potential disputes or misunderstandings.

10. Secure a Deposit for Future Rentals

Lastly, it is a good practice to secure a deposit from future tenants to cover any potential costs associated with abandoned property. This deposit can be used to cover storage fees or expenses incurred in case a tenant leaves their belongings behind. Include this clause in your lease agreement to protect yourself as a landlord.

Handling a situation where a tenant leaves their belongings behind can be challenging. By following the steps outlined in this article and seeking legal advice, you can handle the matter effectively and in compliance with the law.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Legal Requirements When A Tenant Leaves Belongings Behind In South Africa?

When a tenant vacates, landlords must follow legal procedures in dealing with abandoned belongings. Contacting the tenant is the first step.

Can A Landlord Dispose Of The Tenant’s Belongings In South Africa?

In South Africa, landlords can only dispose of belongings after giving proper notice and following legal procedures, as stipulated in the law.

How Can A Landlord Notify The Tenant About The Abandoned Belongings In South Africa?

Landlords can send a written notice via registered mail to the tenant’s last known address, informing them about the abandoned belongings.

What Should A Landlord Do If The Tenant Does Not Claim The Abandoned Belongings In South Africa?

If the tenant fails to claim the belongings after the specified notice period, the landlord can then arrange for disposal or auction as per legal requirements.


Dealing with abandoned belongings left by tenants in South Africa requires landlords to follow legal procedures, communicate effectively with tenants, and document actions taken. By reviewing lease agreements, notifying tenants, storing belongings safely, and seeking legal advice if needed, landlords can handle the situation responsibly while protecting their rights and fulfilling their obligations. Understanding legal requirements and FAQs ensures a smooth process and fosters positive landlord-tenant relationships.

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