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Abandoned goods

 

This information covers the steps you must take where goods are left with you or on your property and you want to the owner to collect them from you or your property, eg:

  • A friend who was living in your house with you moves out and leaves several items of furniture and boxes in your home.
  • A person asks to temporarily leave their car in your garage for a week and fails to collect it after a week.
  • You find a car on the verge in front of your house and want it removed.

The legal term for this situation is "abandoned goods".

There are steps you need to take before you can sell or dispose of goods that have been left with you. You cannot throw away or dispose of the goods unless ordered to do so by the court.

The Disposal of Uncollected Goods Act 1970 (WA) ("the Act") sets out the steps that must be taken before you can do anything with the goods.

 

What is not covered by this information

The information here does not cover situations where:

  • goods are left with you in the course of a business
  • goods have been left for you to repair, inspect or store
  • goods have been received by you by committing a criminal offence
  • goods are abandoned in residential tenancy situations
  • goods are subject to bailment

If any of these situations applies to you, get legal advice.

What is bailment?

This is the situation where the owner of goods leaves them with another person (the holder of the goods) with the agreement that the holder of the goods:

  • will be responsible for the safekeeping of the goods, and
  • will return the goods after a certain time.

For example, a car parked in a garage or an animal looked after in a boarding kennel.

What if I separate and my partner leaves his goods at my home - can I throw them out?

No. The goods may form part of your property settlement. If this applies to you get legal advice.

For more information about property settlement go to Dividing property - de facto couples and Dividing property- married couples.

What if I left my goods in my rental property can my landlord throw them out?

Generally no, however this will depend on the type and value of the goods left at the property. Get legal advice.

For information about abandoned goods in residential tenancy situations see below under the heading Where can I get more information?

What if a friend left goods at my home after they moved out. Can I throw them out?

No, you must follow the steps outlined below before you can sell or dispose of the goods.

What are the steps I need to take to sell or dispose of the goods/property?

You can negotiate

You should contact the person who left the goods with you or at your property and ask that they collect them. Make sure that you say the date that you would like the goods/property collected by. If possible, your request for the collection of goods should also be in writing. Depending on the reason the goods were not collected it may be possible to negotiate an agreement for collection of the goods that is suitable to you both. If the goods remain uncollected you may need to begin legal proceedings to sell or dispose of the property. Always get legal advice before going to court.

You must give formal notice

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other party before disposing of any goods or property you are required by the Act to give the other party formal notice that you intend to sell or dispose of their property. This can be completed by filling in a form and serving it on the other party. The forms can be obtained from the Magistrates Court of WA. Get legal advice about what you must address in your notice to the other party.

What if I do not know the other party's whereabouts?

If you do not know where the other party resides or cannot contact them you must give notice of your intention to sell or dispose of goods to the Commissioner of Police. If this applies to you get legal advice.

What if I have given notice and nothing happens?

If you have served your notice and one month has passed and you have received no response from the other party you can make an application to the Magistrates Court of WA for an order to sell or dispose of the goods. Get legal advice if this applies to you.

What orders can the court make?

The court can order :

  • the goods be sold or disposed of
  • the way in which the goods are to be sold or disposed of
  • prohibit the sale or disposal of the goods
  • reasonable storage fees be awarded to the person making the application
  • an advertisement be placed in the newspaper for the owner to be notified.

Do time limits apply?

Yes, get legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

Yes. Legal proceedings are costly and the unsuccessful party is usually ordered to pay the successful party's legal costs. Before you start a court application you should seek advice about :

  • whether there is a legal basis to your claim to dispose of the goods
  • your chances of success
  • the potential costs involved
  • which court you should start your application in.

Where can I get more information?

  • Contact Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579.
  • Contact the Department of Commerce- Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 to get a printed copy of the publication Renting a home in Western Australia - a tenant's guide. For more information go to its website at Abandoned premises and goods
  • To get the forms you need go to the Magistrates Court of Western Australia website or go to a Magistrates Court registry.
  • For information about abandoned goods in residential tenancy situations contact the Tenant Advice Line WA  on (08) 9221 0088 (metro) or 1800 621 888 (country) 9.15am-3.30pm WST Monday to Friday. If you cannot get through to an adviser you will not be able to leave a message and will have to ring back or visit its website to find the tenant advocate nearest you.  

Last reviewed: 28/11/2012

Last Modified: 02/05/2013

Disclaimer

The material displayed on this page is intended for information only. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia believes that the information provided is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.