We don’t with an abandoned rental on anyone but in the case that this rarity occurs we want to prepare you to best handle it. The best way to handle abandoned property left by a tenant and avoid legal problems is following your state laws. While these laws differ from state to state, usually a property owner cannot obtain or keep personal property that is left by the tenant, also you can not dispose of it. However what you can do as a rental property owner is follow a series of important steps to document and control access to the items. Following the law mean no costly repercussion and you are able to move on from the abandoned rental and quickly get it back on the market.
When a tenant moves out, they sometimes leave things behind. There are many stories about tenants who leave a rental home in poor condition, leaving trash and personal items for the property owner to clean up. But some tenants will also leave items such as furniture, previous tenants mail, personal items, and clothing. Abandoned property can leave problems for the owner more an just cleaning up the space. Beyond needing to clear out the rental home for the next tenant, abandoned property can lead to serious legal trouble if not handled properly. What often complicates the disposal of abandoned personal property is that the laws governing personal property left in rental homes not only differ from state to state, but periodically also from county to county. For property owners, it is critical to know the law that governs each of your rental properties and follow them to the best of your ability.
For most places, the proper handling of abandoned property begins with simple protocol. For example, a property owner should ensure that they have control over access to the former tenant’s personal property. This is done by recovering all keys and garage door openers, or by changing the rental home’s locks. Some states may allow personal property to be secured in a storage unit or require the items be left on the premises, each location will have different provisions. One of the worst things a property owner can do is allow a former tenant’s personal property to be stolen after the tenant has moved out. Civil and criminal charges may result, creating many unwanted legal problems.
Once the property is secured and in your hands, another important task is to document the abandoned property. This can be done in several ways, such as by making a detailed video recording of the items, taking photographs, or by making a detailed list. Taking photos and video accompanied by a detailed written list of items is the best way to document the property’s condition, in case questions about property damage arise later on.
Once you determine that you are legally able to move the abandoned items, it is a good idea to invite a neutral person to act as a witness as you do so. This will prevent any questions about theft or illegal handling of the tenant’s property, and provide confirmation that the property is being handled safely and appropriately. A misconception you might run into is holding the property until the lease is met, this is unlawful and there are other avenues to handling this breech of contract. The tenant has a right to reclaim their property in your area.
Next in handling your abandoned property is to notify the former tenant in writing that the property was left behind and what you have done with it to date. If the law allows, you may include a statement informing the tenant that they have until a certain date to claim their items, this ensures that you aren’t left with months of storage unit fees, so you can decide what to do with their things after that date. Again, laws vary, but many places allow property owners to keep, sell, or otherwise dispose of abandoned property once all of the proper steps have been taken.
Even if things go quickly and efficiently, dealing with a former tenant’s abandoned personal property will take up valuable time and cost you money. The potential legal problems are real and can make the process complex. Instead of trying to navigate these murky circumstances yourself, consider letting the professionals Real Property Management do it for you. Our property management professionals have in-depth knowledge of local laws and can ensure that abandoned property is handled accordingly, and unfortunately have much experience in dealing with these matters. We believe that the best defense against potential legal problems is communication and maintaining good tenant relations. With our help, you can avoid unpleasant tenant interactions and time-consuming hassles, which leaves you free to allocate your time in more profitable ways.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.