Landlord-Tenant: Abandoned Property

I handle a lot of landlord-tenant issues, predominantly from the perspective of the landlord. What’s becoming more of an issue I am encountering is questions regarding what to do with abandoned personal property that remains on the premises following the tenant vacating, either voluntarily or through an eviction. This article will help shed some light on this topic.

For those who don’t know, an eviction is the process of legally removing an occupant from a rental unit and the landlord retaking possession. When this happens, often times, the occupant leaves behind personal property. Most of the time, it’s mostly garbage. If that’s the case, then it’s pretty straightforward and the garbage can be removed. However, if there’s property of value remaining, there is legal responsibility on behalf of the landlord to safe keep it. Same goes for personal property that is left behind from a tenant who makes a unilateral decision to vacate the unit.

In both situations, it’s appropriate to give proper notice that there is personal property remaining in the unit to the tenant. In this instance it’s appropriate to send notice to the tenant’s known address that the property is will be disposed of, either by simply throwing it away or by selling it. The law requires keeping the abandoned property for 28 days and giving notice within 14 days if any of the property is going to be sold and also posting notice on the premises of the sale. In both situations, landlords would be wise to keep documentation of all the written notice they’ve provided to the tenant.

If the property is going to be sold, it’s important to understand that proceeds from the sale can only be applied to the landlord’s storage and sale costs. This means that if the landlord decided to move all of the abandoned property to a storage unit, they can apply these costs to the proceeds of a sale. Same goes for lost rental value, if the property remains in the rental unit. Any surplus must be returned to the tenant. Also, any demands made by the tenant to make the personal property available for pick-up, it must be released.

At the end of the day, it’s a pain for a landlord to deal with abandoned property. With that said, they must properly dispose the abandoned property or run the risk of having a claim against them by the tenant.

Please send any request for topic suggestions to rene@breenandperson.com.  Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know.  Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.