What to do When Your Tenant Leaves Their Items Behind

When are you legally allowed to discard abandoned property?

A woman wearing a gray sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up carries two moving boxes out of a doorway. One of the boxes is labeled kitchen.

It's more common than not for tenants to leave a few belongings behind after moving out. As a landlord, it's wise to understand the proper procedure for handling abandoned personal property. This includes knowing the best course of action for removal and what pitfalls to avoid during the process.

What Happens With Furniture Left Behind By Tenants?

Resist the temptation to discard leftover, unwanted furniture. Landlord-tenant laws in every state typically require landlords to store abandoned property for a specific period of time before disposal or destruction. These laws vary significantly from state to state.

To make sure you're properly handling abandoned belongings, always check your local landlord-tenant laws or seek advice from a lawyer. For example, in Illinois landlords are required to store items for seven days, while California allows landlords to discard abandoned belongings under certain circumstances that prove tenant vacancy. Understanding these guidelines protects you from legal issues and ensures responsible management of your property.

What to do if Tenants Leave Things Behind After Moving Out

Here are four steps you can take to legally remove a tenant's leftover belongings.

1. Research Your Local Landlord-Tenant Laws

Knowing your local landlord-tenant laws is key to handling abandoned belongings smoothly. These regulations dictate what you can and can't do as a landlord during this process, significantly reducing your risk of legal issues.

By familiarizing yourself with the local laws, you'll become aware of the documentation you need to provide to the tenant as well as the specific circumstances that allow you to discard items that have been abandoned. This proactive approach safeguards your interests and guarantees you're following the law.

2. Provide a Notice to Pick Up Personal Property

Sometimes, tenants leave their items behind unintentionally. Providing them with a Notice to Pick Up Personal Property helps avoid misunderstandings and protects both parties.

This notice informs your former tenants of any belongings they've left behind and details the course of action you will take if they remain unclaimed by a specific date. Most landlords send the notice via certified mail or email with a return receipt. This creates a definitive paper trail, which verified that the tenant received the information.

3. Document the Situation With Photos

Take photos of all abandoned belongings in the property that need to be claimed before moving them elsewhere. Photos can serve as proof of what items the tenant left behind and the condition they were left in.

4. Notify the Tenant Once Belongings Have Been Moved

If the tenant still hasn't made attempts to reclaim their belongings after the period of time outlined in the notice, you may want to inform them of where you've moved the items, whether it be a storage unit or specific thrift store. Even if the tenant has no desire to claim their belongings, communicate each step to them in case they change their mind in the future.

What If the Tenant Does Not Claim the Property?

If the tenant has not claimed their belongings once receiving the Notice to Pick Up Personal Property, then most states will allow you to dispose of the property or sell it. But before doing either option, check with local ordinances before moving anything

Created on: 05/16/24

Author: CreditLink Secure Blog Team

Tags: abandoned, belongings , tenant , landlord tenant law , tenant law , move out,

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