Case Study 17: Removal of possessions from a communal area

Mr S complained that his landlord removed and disposed of his belongings without telling him first or getting his agreement for the disposal.

Mr S had arranged with an estate cleaner to keep his bikes in a store area in the grounds of the estate he lived on. The landlord had contracted out estate cleaning services, and the cleaner worked for the contractor. The cleaner had got agreement for Mr S to store his bikes in the store from his own line manager, and had then provided Mr S with keys. However the cleaner subsequently left his job. Mr S discovered that his bikes were missing from the store and then found that they had been disposed of by the landlord, without his prior knowledge or consent. 

The landlord considered the matter under its own complaints procedure and noted that Mr S had made an arrangement to store his items with a third party without seeking permission from it. It further said that it had to deal with other issues regarding anti-social behaviour and fly tipping in the store areas and, since the stored items were parts of bikes and it did not know that they belonged to Mr S, it had decided that they could be disposed of. The landlord therefore said that it would not offer compensation in respect of Mr S’s complaint.

We discussed the matter with both Mr S and with the landlord. We noted that as far as he was aware the arrangement had been with his landlord, as he was not aware that the cleaning services were provide by a third party contractor, and he had believed that the cleaner was a member of the landlord’s staff.  However we also noted that the landlord had acted in good faith when it removed items that it believed had been abandoned in the area.

We therefore contacted the landlord setting out the position as we understood it, and explaining that we wanted to explore whether we could assist both parties to reach a resolution at a local level between themselves. We suggested to the landlord that a way of doing this may be to consider the matter of compensation again, to recognise the fact that whilst it had acted in good faith, Mr. S had also been acting in good faith when he made a local arrangement with someone whom he understood to be a member of its staff.

The landlord took the opportunity to consider the complaint further. It acknowledged that the fact that Mr S had been given a key for the store would have reasonably led him to believe that the arrangement had been made with its knowledge and consent. The landlord therefore decided that a goodwill payment of £100 to Mr S would be appropriate, and he accepted this offer.

We were satisfied that the matter had been locally resolved on the basis of this offer. By working with both the landlord and the complainant in this case, we were able to ensure that a settlement was reached which both parties recognised as a fair resolution, taking into account the overall circumstances of the case.