Can a Landlord Take Over a Rental Property if a Tenant Abandons the Property?

When a landlord and tenant sign a binding lease between them the tenant is expected to stay in the unit and pay rent for the duration of that lease. If they leave without any form of notification, this may be considered abandonment, and local laws should address how to reclaim the property as a landlord and what to do with any possessions left behind.

California law allows the landlord to reclaim their rental unit when they find that it's been abandoned. There must be a reasonable assumption of abandonment to retake it, such as overdue rent or if the former tenant cut the utilities. If the neighbors witnessed the tenant moving, this can also be proof. Make sure to document this evidence. A legal notice may be filed if the rent is over 14 days late and the tenant is given 18 days to respond. At the end of this period, if the tenant has not responded you may enter the property and make sure it's secure. This may include changing the locks and/or alarm codes. Rent owed may be deducted from the security deposit as well as for any damages. If you must repair damage, make sure to list out the cost of this and mail that to the last known address for the tenant.

If they leave possessions behind, these must be stored. It is a good idea to document everything as best as you can. They have 18 days to reclaim the property after you have sent the detailed list of everything they left behind to their last known address. If it's worth less than $300 and they do not claim it, the landlord may take possession of it - so you may keep it or dispose of it - but if it's greater than that, California law states that you must make arrangements to auction it off.

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POSTED January 29 2014 12:35 PM

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