One of the best way to handle an abandoned property is by following your state laws. While these laws differ from state to state, a property owner cannot take or keep personal property left behind by a former tenant. Nor can they throw it away. A rental property owner must follow a series of steps to document and control access to the items. When done according to local law, rental property owners can safely and confidently dispose of a former tenant’s abandoned property.

What steps can you take?

Sometimes a tenant leaves things behind when they move out. It’s not always the case that a tenant leaves the home in poor condition. Some tenants will leave items such as furniture, unforwarded mail, personal items, and clothing.

Abandoned property can be a problem for investors for several reasons. Getting rid of abandoned personal items isn’t just about getting your property ready for the next tenants. It can lead to serious legal trouble if not handled properly. What often complicates the disposal of abandoned personal property is that the laws governing personal property left in rental homes not only differ from state to state, but also sometimes even from county to county. It is critical to know the law that governs each of your rental properties and follow them closely.

For most places, the proper handling of abandoned property begins with several tasks. Let’s review them:

Recover all keys, garage door openers, and other access points of the property.

A property owner should ensure that they have control over access by recovering all keys and garage door openers or by changing the rental home’s locks. Some states may allow personal property to be secured in a storage unit or require the items be left on the premises. Each location will have different provisions. One of the worst things a property owner can do is allow a former tenant’s personal property to be stolen after the tenant has moved out. Civil and criminal charges may result, creating many unwanted legal problems.

Document the abandoned property.

Once secure, another important task is to document the abandoned property. This can be done in several ways, such as: making a detailed video recording of the items, taking photos, or making a detailed list. Doing all those things is the best way to document the property’s condition, in case questions arise later on.

Hire or invite a neutral person(s) to act as a witness or remove the items for you.

Once you determine that you are legally able to move the abandoned items, it is a good idea to invite a neutral person to act as a witness as you do so. This will prevent any questions about theft or illegal handling of the tenant’s property. Provide confirmation that the property is being handled safely and appropriately. Holding property until terms of the lease are met is not lawful. Make sure you fully understand the tenant rights to reclaim their property in your area. 

Notify the former tenant in writing.

Another step to take when dealing with abandoned property is to notify the former tenant in writing that property was left behind and what you have done with it to date. You can also include a statement informing the tenant that they have until a certain date to claim their items. Include what you plan to do with their things after that date. Again, laws vary, but many places allow property owners to keep, sell, or otherwise dispose of abandoned property once all of the proper steps have been taken.

Abandoned property isn’t ideal.

Even if things go smoothly, dealing with a former tenant’s abandoned personal property will take up valuable time and cost you money. The potential legal problems are real and can make the process complex. Consider how much better it would be to let someone else navigate murky tenant situations. Our property management professionals have in-depth knowledge of local laws and can ensure that abandoned property is handled accordingly. We believe that the best defense against potential legal problems is communication and maintaining good tenant relations. You can avoid unpleasant tenant interactions and time-consuming hassles, leaving you free to allocate your time in more profitable ways. Schedule a consultation with us today.