Tenant left stuff behind... Now what?
Whenever your tenant moves out, every property owner/landlord wants this transition process to be seamless and pain-free for everyone. But sometimes, that is not the case because your tenant leaves without taking everything that “is their stuff”. Unfortunately, dealing with abandoned property can become a major chore. At best, it’s a simple case of forgetfulness and at worst, it’s a lengthy and complex process—from removal and storage to communicate with the tenant, to either returning the items or disposing of them.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in a situation where your tenant left a lot of their things behind.
First things first, prior to the Tenant moving into the Property, have a checklist of what exactly is the Tenant’s property. Ask them to share with you – a list of major personal possessions they own or owned by a guest in their rental unit. For bigger items owned by your tenant and/or their guests, clearly understand where the items will be stored, such as in the garage or a shed in the yard.
Make certain your lease shows the tenant is required to restore your property back to normal and taking their personal property. Further, make certain you add into your lease agreement, what will happen to any and all abandoned property.
After your tenant departs and you walk through your property. You may find the tenant’s property has been left behind (e.g. clothing, furniture, electronics, etc.) based on your list. As a landlord, it is good to call the tenant and ask if they want to get their items or not. If you can’t reach them, there is a certain process you must follow to either return or get rid of the abandoned property.
As the property owner, you should try to store your former tenant’s possessions for a reasonable amount of time. Then, speak with your attorney about what is a reasonable and legal amount of time for them to reclaim their belongings. It is good to have an attorney to make certain you are following the laws of your area.
Establish guidelines for your tenants need follow:
1. Lease ended – set the rules for the stuff left behind and what happens to it per the lease 2. Lease termination notice - the tenant moved out of their own accord within their legal rights and understands what happens to stuff left behind per the lease 3. Served a tenant a termination notice: If you followed the due process and gave the right number of days’ notice, more states also afford you much more flexibility with your choice on how to dispose of the former tenant’s belongings. 4. Eviction: In some states, likely local law enforcement will handle the eviction and documentation, including property removal, and they’ll inform you what you are entitled to sell to get compensation for unpaid rent. 5. Disappearance: If the tenant left without notice, their property has to be handled more delicately than those who have deliberately moved out. They still have rights to the property left on site and you cannot withhold personal property to get them to pay rent.
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