When it comes to disposing of left behind, abandoned, or unwanted goods on strata common property in New South Wales, then there are a few key rules that you need to follow.
As of 1 July 2020, new legislation came into effect for the disposal of goods abandoned on common property within strata buildings. The regulation of goods abandoned on strata common property now sits under the Uncollected Goods Act 1995 (“Act”), rather than the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (“SSMA”). You should also be aware that the procedures previously available under the SSMA no longer exist.
What are uncollected goods?
Uncollected goods refer to items that have been left behind or abandoned by the owner. In a strata building, this typically happens when a rental lease has ended and the occupier or rental tenant leaves goods behind on common property of a strata building.
What is the Uncollected Goods Act 1995?
Under the Uncollected Goods Act 1995 in New South Wales, a person in possession of the abandoned or left behind goods has a right to dispose of them after a certain period, depending on the item and its value. Until that time, the owner of these goods is still responsible for them, however if they do not attempt to regain possession within the given timeframe, the goods may be lawfully sold or destroyed under the Act’s guidelines.
What does the Uncollected Goods Act 1995 cover?
The Act refers to the disposal of uncollected goods when there is no agreement between the owner and the person now in possession of the uncollected goods.
What isn’t covered by the Uncollected Goods Act 1995?
There are some goods that are unable to be disposed of under the Act. These include:
- Lost or abandoned pets
- Goods left behind on public transport
- Pawned goods
- Goods left with a storage company
- Motor vehicles with a tow truck company
- Money owed to people that cannot be found
What happens when someone leaves their goods with you?
If an owner chooses to leave their goods with you, then you have a responsibility to look after them. These items can be reclaimed by the owner or anyone with a legal interest in the goods at any time whilst in your possession. You can ask for any actual costs you’ve incurred whilst storing, maintaining, insuring, or removing the goods. You cannot however refuse to return the goods to the owner if they owe rent or money or for any other reason.
Can a landlord charge occupation or other fees for uncollected goods?
If a tenant has left goods behind once a residential tenancy ends, then a landlord is not allowed to charge tenants an ‘occupation fee’ equal to the rent for each day goods are left on the premises. Instead, landlords can only charge a tenant for the actual costs incurred to remove, store, maintain, insure, and dispose of goods.
How do I dispose of goods left behind?
Disposing of left behind goods in a strata community is determined by a few factors such as the type of goods and their value. These are summarised in the below table.
|Type of goods||Manner of notice||Notice period||Disposal method|
|Rubbish and perishables||Not required||Not required||Any appropriate manner|
|Personal documents||Written||28 days||Return to owner or securely destroy|
|Other goods – less than $1,000||Verbal or written||14 days||Any appropriate manner|
|Other goods – between $1,000 and $20,000||Written||28 days||Public auction or private sale for a fair value|
|Other goods – over $20,000||In accordance with Tribunal order||In accordance with Tribunal order||In accordance with Tribunal order|
What is classed as personal documents?
Personal documents are goods that may be important to the owner but have little or no value. Documents include legal documents, medical records, photographs and other personal memorabilia, identity records, employment documents, and financial documents. A written notice needs to be sent to the owner advising them to collect their personal documentation otherwise the documents will be securely destroyed after 28 days.
How do I dispose of motor vehicles?
If a motor vehicle has been left on common property in a strata building, then a strata scheme or Owners Corporation can only move the vehicle if it is reasonably believed to have been abandoned.
To dispose of a motor vehicle, you must first obtain a certificate from the Commissioner of Police and a written search result from the Personal Property Securities Register to confirm the vehicle is not stolen. You can then dispose of the vehicle in the methods mentioned in the above table.
What information do I need to keep after disposing of the uncollected goods?
Besides rubbish and perishable goods, you are required to make a note of all disposed of goods within 7 days, which includes;
- Goods description
- Date of disposal
- Disposal method
- Goods sold – name and address of the buyer, sale price and the amount retained to cover the relevant charges
- Goods sold by public auction – name and address of the principal place of business of the auctioneer
- Any records of attempting to contact the owner of the goods to show you complied with the law.
Records should be kept for 12 months for low value items, whilst for other goods, records should be kept for six years.
What happens if there is a dispute?
If there is a dispute, then the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal should be contacted. They have jurisdiction related to the Uncollected Goods Act; however, the value of the goods and the order you are seeking will determine how long it takes to apply for a Tribunal order.
|Order||Low value||Medium value||High value||Personal documents|
|Compensation for goods destroyed||60 days||60 days||90 days||90 days|
|Compensation for goods damaged||60 days||60 days||90 days||90 days|
|Delivery to owner or other person||180 days||180 days||180 days||180 days|
|Payment of proceeds of sale or equivalent amount to owner or other person||180 days||180 days||180 days||n/a|
Require more information about uncollected goods?
To find out more information about the disposal of uncollected goods within your strata building, contact your Sydney strata manager at The Strata Collective today.