Property left behind when a tenant moves out - 10 things to know!

Property left behind when a tenant moves out - 10 things to know! 

    When a tenant moves out, whether they have been evicted or the lease ended, the process is debilitating for landlords. Most of the time, there are items left by the tenant. Dealing with properties left behind by the tenant can be stressful and hassle for landlords. It is not uncommon for them to encounter this scenario. 

           Most of the time, landlords would encounter garbage left by the tenant in the unit. Disposing of these items is easy. On the other hand, if a tenant encounters personal possessions like fixtures and motorcycles, it is a different story.

A landlord may face serious liability if he/she disposes of it or sell it right away. What must a landlord do with the items and goods left behind?

property left behind when a tenant moves out

1. Identifying the property

What are the properties left behind? The landlord may dispose of the stuff that can be considered garbage. On the other hand, items like medication, documents, and other personal items must be safely stored.

After securing the property, the landlord may notify and contact the tenant about their left property.

2. Why did the tenant leave? 

Determining why the property is abandoned can help the landlord deal with the properties left behind. In dealing with this situation, there are different reasons why the tenant has left:

  • After the duration agreement ended, the lease ended, some tenants do not renew their lease and move out. 
  • Evicted - some tenants who do not abide with the lease are given a termination notice. 
  • Disappeared - for some reason, some tenants would disappear and leave their properties behind. 

Whatever the reason why the tenant has left, their properties must be handled with care and be secured safely. 

3. The legal stand of the landlord

Each state has its laws regarding the properties left by the tenant. In California, tenants have 18 days to recover their personal belongings. Recovering the properties left behind has a price - they must pay the storage cost to the landlord.

Through this process, it gives the tenant time to collect their items and properties. 

4. Secure the property

A landlord may create a list of the items and photograph them. Through this process, you will be more organized, and it will save you time later. Also, it can protect the landlord from liabilities and damages to the properties left behind. 

Securing the property does not mean keeping the property. It only means that a landlord should secure the properties in safe storage. You may create a list of the expenses that this storing may cause. 

5. Notify the tenant

Even though the process may be stressful, the landlord must contact the tenant regarding their property. Write a notice informing the tenant about the property or properties left behind. Below are some of the information you may include in your notice: 

  • Include the list you made and the photos you took for them to identify if it's their property.
  • Make sure that there is a deadline included in the notice. It will give the tenant an ample amount of time to claim their property or properties.
  • Inform the tenant on what will happen with the property if they will not claim it. 
  • If there is a charge for storing the property, make sure they are also aware of it. 

6. Tenant claims the property.

The tenant responds to the written notice, prepare their items and belongings on the date agreed upon. Also, prepare the list of expenses from storing the property. In most cases, the landlord charges the tenant on the storage cost.

7. What if the tenant did not respond?

The tenant did not respond to your notice, there are different ways to handle it. Depending on the state, they have other laws in dealing with properties that have not been claimed.

In California, the landlord can sell or give away the property if it is under $700. However, if it is more than $700, he/she may call the county and sell it on public auction.

8. What if the landlord did not follow these steps?

A landlord may face liabilities if he/she will not safely store the property and notify the tenant. It may take a lot of time to do these processes; however, it will save you a lot of time in the long run. Plus, it can save you from facing charges and liabilities to the tenant's properties left behind. The tenant has the right to file a case against the landlord if this happens. 

9. Preventive measure

Including abandoned properties in your lease

To save the landlord from the hassle and stress of properties left behind, create or revise your lease agreement. The revised lease agreement will inform the tenant regarding their responsibility in maintaining the unit clean after they move out.

Part of this lease agreement is removing any property after they move out of the unit. Before they leave, the tenant should be informed that the place should be the same before their time of occupancy. Pro-tip, you can give the tenant a move-out checklist. It ensures that there will be no property left behind after they move out. If the tenant did not follow the agreement, there could be sanctions. 

10. Preventive measure - screen your new tenants

It can take up your time; however, screening your new tenants can save you from the hassle of dealing with property left behind. Before you accept new tenants, you can do a background check on how they deal with their previous unit. You may also contact their previous landlord on how they left the unit if there are any properties left behind. 

In some cases, some tenants would still leave their properties behind. If this happens, you can follow the steps mentioned above. It can be stressful and debilitating. However, it can save your liabilities and future charges. Who knows, your tenant may thank you in the future for storing their property safely and might give you something in return.

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As a first time homeowner with first time tenants I valued the personal touch and informed team at Abacus Avenue Property Management. Thanks to Abacus I was able to better navigate and understand all the aspects and options I had as a landlord to facilitate a good resolution; with the help of Marc & Lisa I will have successfully reclaimed my property on an agreed date and time. A potentially nerve wrecking and anxiety producing situation was allayed by Abacus advising me in the right direction.

Elizabeth C. Rental Property Owner