It is not uncommon for a tenant to move out and leave behind a considerable amount of their belongings. There are many horror stories about irresponsible tenants leaving a property in less than ideal condition. While some tenants just leave large amounts of garbage others have left behind things like clothing, furniture, unforwarded mail, and more. Sometimes it’s hard to tell that they even actually moved out.
The natural response of a landlord faced with left behind tenant property is frustration and a desire to fill up a truck and haul it all off to the dump. Unfortunately, this could lead to legal problems should the tenant return and wonder where their belongings are. The best way to deal with left behind tenant property is to know the state laws. Most state laws require a landlord or property manager to follow a series of required steps to document and control access to anything left behind. When the proper legal steps and precautions are taken a landlord can safely and confidently dispose of left behind items on their property.
Laws about how to properly handle left behind tenant property differ from state to state, and can even differ from county to county; so it is hugely important to know the exact laws for the location of each property you own. Here are the general steps to take when dealing with left behind property.
- Ensure that you have control over access to the left behind items. Recover all keys, garage door openers, or change the locks to the rental. Some areas allow personal belongings to be stored in a secure storage unit while others require them to be left as they were on the property. The one thing you do not want to happen is allow the possibility for someone to steal the left behind items as you can face civil and criminal charges.
- When the belongings are secure, you now want to document every item left behind. The best way to do this is to make a detailed video or take photos of every space and make a detailed written list of every item left behind.
- Once you know it is ok to legally move anything left behind it is a smart idea to call in a neutral person to act as a witness to prove that everything was handled properly and without ill intent or theft.
- Another great step to take is to notify the tenant that property was left behind if you have contact information. The best way to inform them is in writing so you can retain a copy and have the most solid proof that you did inform the tenant that they left something behind and how they can go about retrieving it.
- In many areas if you have gone through all of the former steps and the tenant has not attempted to retrieve their belongings it is ok to sell or dispose of the property. Again make sure you know the laws of the land.
Dealing with left behind property can be very time consuming and even expensive. A great way to deal with left behind property is to hire a property manager, they will have in-depth knowledge of local laws and know what steps to take to properly take care of left behind tenant property. This will save you stress and time and help avoid costly legal battles.