Explanation of Abandoned Property Notice

As a landlord, you've finally gotten a tenant out of your property and you can't wait to get someone new in there. Your tenant isn't around for the final inspection, so you go into the unit, camera in hand, and end up seeing a majority of their personal possessions still in the home. It's seems clear that they've abandoned the property, so you can just hire someone to clean out these possessions and even charge the past tenant for the cost of this removal, right?

Not necessarily. Almost every state and community requires landlords to notify their past tenants that they believe their property has been abandoned. Your duties as a landlord also won't stop with just this notice. You've got even more work to do.

Landlords Often Must Store Belongings For Safekeeping

Although this requirement isn't in every law, it is in a lot of them. You must first serve your past tenant with the notice that says you believe they have abandoned their personal property and other goods. You must also give them a specific amount of time to be able to arrange for the removal of their property or goods from its current location in the rental property before you even touch it. If you just walked in to do the checkout, you're now doing inventory.

Why do the inventory? Because there is a precedent that a landlord can be responsible for missing items that a past tenant wants to claim, even if the landlord says they won't be responsible for loss that results in storage of the property. You must also put in a description of the abandoned property into the notice and a full inventory will help you be able to fight off a potential legal challenge that might show up in the future.

Once the amount of time has passed on the notice for a past tenant to remove their belongings and they fail to do so, you can then transfer these belongings to a secure storage area. In some states, if the property doesn't meet a value minimum, it is possible for a landlord to simply dispose of the items.

Can You Sell Abandoned Property As a Landlord?

You can sell property that has been abandoned by a tenant if you have taken the proper notification steps that start with the abandoned property notice. If you've given them the mandated time to respond to property at their location and made it possible for them to obtain their property after you've moved it to a secure location and you've received no response, then it is possible to sell this property to recoup some of your rental losses.

You are entitled to the cost of storage and any removal costs that occur to place abandoned property into storage. Obtaining those costs, however, can sometimes be difficult. If your tenant has been removed by the sheriff, then the property can be removed immediately in many circumstances.

By serving an abandoned property notice, you're doing the right thing and many people will come get their stuff as soon as they can. If they do not, however, then you have the chance to take care of this situation quickly, effectively, and maybe even make a couple bucks at it if you really want.
Posted on May 24, 2014


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