What Happens When Tenants Abandon Their Belongings?

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So, your tenants have moved out but left some of their belongings. 

What happens in this scenario?

Before you touch anything, you first need to understand your state’s laws concerning the disposal of belongings abandoned by the tenants. Every state has different laws on this matter and you might be faced with serious liability for getting rid of a tenant’s personal belongings if you don’t take the correct steps.

Learn your states laws on handling abandoned tenant property

The first port of call is to check out resources such as this book on State Laws on Handling Abandoned Tenant Property. Learn as much as you can by yourself. Join a local landlords’ association to also get practical advice. The National Apartment Association is a good place to start your search for a landlords’ association in your local area. 

If after reading you’re still unclear of what to do, you may need to enlist the services of a qualified lawyer to help you understand your role and responsibilities. A lawyer can help you cover yourself from potential lawsuits brought against you about having stolen or willfully destroyed the tenant’s property. 

Discover why the tenant has left

The next step when it comes to handling abandoned tenant’s property is to understand the reason why the tenant has left. This is done because the reason the tenant left dictates the manner in which the property should be disposed of. 

  1. The tenant moves out because their lease is up

    The tenant has moved out at the end of their lease. They have had enough time to prepare and pack. Therefore, whatever they have left can be considered as trash. Most states allow you to freely dispose of anything the tenant has left in this case.

  2. The tenant has been evicted for one or more reasons

    If you have issued your tenant with an eviction notice (for failing to pay rent for example), many states once again give you free reign to dispose of whatever the tenant has left behind. 

  3. The tenant has been forcibly evicted from the rental 

    Evictions aren’t always smooth. Sometimes a tenant has to be forcibly evicted from a property by law enforcement agents. In this situation, you as the landlord will be required to remove the tenant’s belongings and place them on the sidewalk. However, you’re expected to do so with care.

  4. The tenant disappears without giving official notice

    It may happen that a tenant suddenly disappears without giving official notice of leave. It causes a lot of trouble on your part because in some states you have to wait a certain number of days before you can get rid of the tenant’s property. 

Things to be aware of concerning abandoned tenant belongings

If the property left behind is clearly trash then you can dispose of it without much worry regarding state rules. State laws are also waived where the following property is involved:

Fixtures: Fixtures are anything the tenant has added to the rental that is permanent or semi-permanent. This may be a bookshelf, lighting, plumbing or any addition to a property that is looked upon legally as being part of the rental. In this case, you do not have to return the fixture to the tenant.

Cars and other vehicles: Tenants may abandon non-running cars on your property. In this scenario, you simply notify the police, give them the vehicle’s license plates, vehicle type and model, and details on where the vehicle is parked on your property. The police will then arrange for it to be towed away after filing it as an abandoned piece of tenant property. 

Are you still unsure about how to deal with abandoned tenant belongings? Would you like to talk to someone? Contact PMI Colorado today.