Although the law says that a landlord cannot seize or withhold the tenant's property for any reason (s. 12 of The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA), the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) may make orders permitting a landlord to dispose of property left behind by tenants and absolving a landlord from liability to a tenant for doing so (s. 85 RTA).
If a landlord has made a reasonable attempt to locate a tenant who has left property behind at the end of a tenancy, and the tenant cannot be located or has not made reasonable arrangements to pick up their belongings, the landlord may then apply to the ORT for an order to sell or dispose of property. A landlord is not obligated to obtain an order if the estimated value of the property left behind is $1500 or less, provided they have made efforts to locate the tenant to retrieve their belongings.
Tenants, take your property when you vacate and leave the rental property reasonably clean as required by law (s. 51 RTA). If you leave something behind, contact the landlord and arrange to pick it up promptly. If you fail to take things with you, it may be assumed that the property left behind has no value to you. You may be liable for storage or other costs incurred by the landlord as a result of the property being left behind.
Landlords are typically glad to have the tenant clean out their property. If a landlord interferes with the tenant's right to their property, the landlord may be liable to the tenant for the property and liable for damages for depriving the tenant of the use of the property.
Landlords should consider the following steps in dealing with property left behind by tenants:
- Obtain email, mobile phone and as much other contact information as you can from the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy to facilitate communication with the tenant after the tenancy ends.
- Once the tenant has left, make an inventory of goods with pictures or video or make a list in writing before moving any goods.
- You may store the property economically but securely while attempting to have the tenant or someone on the tenant's behalf pick up the property.
- Keep a record of calls made and notes of conversations when communicating with the tenant, or with relatives or others.
- If you believe that the property has little or no value and you dispose of it without an order from the ORT, you take the risk that the tenant may make a claim against you and establish that the property had some value which you may be ordered to pay to the tenant. Decide if the protection of an order is worth your time and expense.
- If you want protection from a claim by the tenant, you may obtain an order from the ORT authorizing you to dispose of the property left behind by the tenant (s. 85 RTA; use Form 2 - Application to Dispose of Abandoned Property under The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 to apply).
- Consider searching the Personal Property Registry through Information Services Corporation (1-866-275-4721) to disclose liens on any goods of value (i.e. motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, etc.). You may contact a lien holder to determine if they wish to pick up the property.
A tenant can apply for compensation even after the landlord has disposed of goods pursuant to an order. The tenant would have to show that the landlord provided false or incorrect information to the ORT in the landlord's application for the order permitting them to dispose of the property.
Both the tenant and the landlord should act reasonably to make arrangements for the tenant to pick up property. Tenants, please communicate with the landlord to arrange to pick up your property. Both landlords and tenants need to attend at any agreed time. Failure of the landlord or the tenant to attend at an arranged time to pick up goods may result in an adverse outcome in any subsequent claim relating to the goods.
Examples of decisions permitting a landlord to dispose of property left behind by the tenant:
Examples of decisions on claims by tenants for compensation:
More decisions can be found by using the search functions on CanLII.