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Landlords and Recycling Tenants Waste – Domestic or Commercial?

A recent dispute between a landlord and Essex County Council has sparked a debate regarding landlords disposing of waste from their rental properties at local recycling centres. The County Council informed the landlord, who owns 13 properties in the Brentwood area, that by using the local recycling centre to dispose of garden waste from his rental properties he was breaking the law as it was classified as ‘trade waste’ which cannot be disposed of at the expense of the taxpayer.

Essex County Council has recently made operational changes to stop businesses using recycling centres to dispose of trade waste by banning small vans, pick-up trucks and multi-axle trailers from using local recycling centres, a rule which is reflected in many areas of England. The Brentwood landlord feels that this discriminates against private landlords and will result in increased levels of fly-tipping as it becomes costly for landlords to dispose of waste left behind by tenants.

This initially minor dispute has escalated and drawn comment from numerous landlords, some agreeing with the County Council that being a landlord is a for-profit exercise and therefore commercial in nature so any waste cannot be classified as ‘domestic’. With others believing that the services provided by the recycling centres, which is funded from local Council Tax, should be open to private landlords as they pay council tax on their rental properties even when they are ‘empty and unoccupied’ and so contribute to the running of the centres.

This is a complex issue as of course waste left behind by tenants is ‘household waste’ and if they were to take it to the recycling centre themselves, there would be no issue whatsoever. However, being a landlord is a for-profit exercise and is comparable to running a business such a small scale development company which must pay to dispose of their waste. The central concern, raised by many is that banning landlords from disposing of their tenants waste for free at local recycling centres will see an increase in fly-tipping, which is both an eyesore and a financial burden on local authorities.

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