What to Do with Abandoned Personal Property

Written on July 9, 2015 by

Abandoned Personal Property61 percent of current renters say they will continue to be renters for at least three more years, according to a 2014 survey by Freddie Mac.

That’s great news for landlords!

But all tenants eventually move out. Unfortunately, some tenants don’t leave the place as nice as it was when they moved in.

You probably expect to do some cleaning and maybe some minor repairing, but you likely don’t expect to find your tenant’s property left behind.

And if you do find that your property is full of their stuff, it doesn’t mean a bonanza for you. You now need to deal with this abandoned property according to the laws of your state.

Garbage Left Behind

Obvious garbage is one thing. You’re safe to throw out abandoned beer bottles, rotting food and old newspapers. (And we understand if you’re feeling something other than warmth for your ex-tenants at this time.)

But stuff with value, such as TVs, bicycles, furniture, clothes and those $700 Air Jordan sneakers that someone waited in line to get, all need to be dealt with properly. Otherwise, you could pay for any missteps you might take.

“…you could pay for any missteps you might take”

Reason the Tenant Left

Besides states having different requirements on what landlords need to do when they find abandoned property, sometimes the state rules are different depending on the circumstances in which the tenant left.

For example, you might be able to deal with the property differently when a tenant leaves because the lease is up versus a tenant who leaves because of eviction or who just leaves without giving notice.

You also can typically treat the property differently if you have written confirmation that the tenant will not be returning.

Some Common Sense Steps to Take

Here are three general, common sense measures you can take that might fix the abandoned property issue the easy way, no matter where you live or what the circumstances behind the vacancy were:

  1. Itemize Everything
    List all the items of value left behind. Take a photo or video of each item to show its condition.
  2. Get a Witness
    Invite a neutral party to come over (such as a neighbor) to watch you move the items to a safe place in the property itself or to a storage unit.
  3. Notify the Tenant
    Notify your tenant in writing, sent certified mail to the last known address, return receipt requested. You can additionally send an email to help ensure your tenant sees your notice. Let your tenant know what was left behind and what you’ve done with the property. State that your tenant has until a certain date to claim the property. If the property is not picked up by the deadline, state that you will dispose of the property.

Generally speaking, you can deduct any costs that you incur to store or advertise the property for sale from the security deposit. However, you should state this in a letter you send to your tenant explaining the reason for withholding the amount.

Here’s a sample letter you could send:

Many landlords choose to allow seven or 10 days for tenants to pick up the property, unless the state specifies the length of time. Many times, if the tenant doesn’t claim his or her property by the deadline, your state allows you to throw away the personal property, donate it or sell it.

Property that Becomes Yours

You can keep property the tenant left that would now be considered a fixture, which is anything the tenant attached to walls or ceilings.

This includes things like shelves, built-in bookshelves and lighting equipment. Fixtures that the tenant put in are considered part of the rental property, and landlords can keep them.

Abandoned Vehicles

If your tenant abandoned that car he or she never could get running, call the police.

Cars often don’t fall under the same laws as other abandoned property does. Let the police tow the car and determine whether it was abandoned.

Have you dealt with abandoned property? What did you do with it? Let us know in the comments!

photo credit: Brian Oh
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149 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jenny Marquez

    What laws do i have to fallow if someone was only a guest for 3 weeks in my house , and no longer is allowed to stay in my house, she came last night trying to break in but I told her come at decent hour so police came they watched her grab a few thing and told her to notify me today between 8-8 to pick up the rest of her stuff but she hasn’t what laws do i have to fallow if she was only a guest not a resident and only here for 3 weeks and has been told she has to leave the 2nd week. She wants to play games cuz she was trying to stay 30 days do i would havr to go through legal procedures, what righsright do i have if the officofficer told her to come get her stuff today between 8-8 and she hasn’t picked it up can I put it by door step

  • Jenny Marquez

    What laws do i have to fallow if someone was only a guest for 3 weeks in my house , and no longer is allowed to stay in my house, she came last night trying to break in but I told her come at decent hour so police came they watched her grab a few thing and told her to notify me today between 8-8 to pick up the rest of her stuff but she hasn’t what laws do i have to fallow if she was only a guest not a resident and only here for 3 weeks and has been told she has to leave the 2nd week. She wants to play games cuz she was trying to stay 30 days do i would havr to go through legal procedures, what righsright can I put her stuff out by doorstep

  • Jenny Marquez

    She was trying to stay in my house for 30 days cuz by the 3rd week she was emailing me laws for residence that stay 30 days , police told her last night to notify me today at a decent hour to get the rest of her stuff that I had no clue she was bringing in throuthrough the window , she went through all my personal belongings stole my medications, and when I told her she couldn’t live in my house but she can only stay as a guest for 3 weeks only but she was only allowed to be a guest if she remained sober but she didnt she admitted to relapsing can I put her stuff out she perposly will leave her stuff here for as long she wants cuz she knows I want her stuff gone she’s very addictive and threatening

  • Jenny Marquez

    She’s very vandictive , what are the laws if she wasn’t paying rent and was only a guest for 3 weeks, what are the laws of the cops watched her and told her to get what she could last night but to come today between 8 and 8 to get the rest of her stuff but hasn’t can I put her stuff out in front of my doorsteps cause I hav4 to work. Allday i get home late to go to bed I get up really early in morning to do it all over again it will be hit n miss what can I do

  • Fen Lin

    My tenants moved out few days after I sent they a 30 days notice They gave me the keys but they left a few possessions in the apartment. I have contacted they many times to get the stuff and they told me they will come back to get it tomorrow. But they never showed up.Now they just stop answering my calls and texts. Also they owed me two months rent. I can’t sent they a written notice about the property left behind because I don’t know where they have moved to. What can I do with their property?

  • Keri Steen

    I’m in Texas. I can’t find information online or know the correct people to call for my state. I left my previous residence before November of 2016. She knows where we live because of the whole let your landlord know your future residence thing. So we did. Well, today 3/14/17 she had 2 men drop off loads of wood that we had used to build a fence and Cabana. Then their was trash, a car seat, TV and other items that were not ours. We have a no trespassing sign that they clearly violated when they pulled into our backyard to throw all of these items in a messy pile. We have to pay a fee to have these items hauled away. What can I do?

  • Cindy Craver

    Sole homeowner AZ. After renting a room 2 a good friend for <5years, on a monthly verbal, he died 12/17/16. Unfortunately, at 72 years old, he was an extreme horder. That fact complicates the clearing & cleaning​ process. His sons paid me on 1/11/17 & 2/22/17(for storage). On 1/11,they took only 2pickUp truckloads. Since then,No communication, action or pymt for <3weeks. I'm preparing to send a(certified) Notice of Abandoned property. Last week I filed a non-probate affidavit to get a title on his broken-down car. My questions; Can I legally dispose of the car? Will the Notice be legally enforceable if sent to the 2nd oldest son? Will I have any recourse, if the final cleanUp is unreasonable & requires paid assistance​? ThankU in advance;

  • Cindy Craver

    Sole homeowner AZ. After renting a room 2 a good friend for <5years, on a monthly verbal, he died 12/17/16. Unfortunately, at 72 years old, he was an extreme horder. That fact complicates the clearing & cleaning​ process. His sons paid me on 1/11/17 & 2/22/17(for storage). On 1/11,they took only 2pickUp truckloads. Since then,No communication, action or pymt for <3weeks. I'm preparing to send a(certified) Notice of Abandoned property. Last week I filed a non-probate affidavit to get a title on his broken-down car. My questions; Can I legally dispose of the car? Will the Notice be legally enforceable if sent to the 2nd oldest son? Will I have any recourse, if the final cleanUp is unreasonable & requires paid assistance​? ThankU in advance;

  • Karyl D Hendrick

    I have a package, delivered by an internet carrier (WOOT, via Amazon) that has no contact reference for returning packages (they’re notorious). Can I consider this abandoned property? I’ve let the former tenant know what it will cost to send it to him, but he’s dense and doesn’t understand I can’t just “return to sender.”

  • Terry Iagulli

    My tenant move before and left they stuff they in the house we have not see them seem they move how long do i have to give get stuff or can I take it out of the house can someone help me with this it be almost 30 days

  • Charlie Strand

    Hello,

    I’m happy I came across this post! I ran a painting company in Nebraska and I left my ladders at the house I rented last year. I moved out of the house at the end of May 2016 and I just went back to the house to pick up my ladders to find out that my landlord had sold my ladders without ever telling me. The ladders were worth about $1500 used and I paid over $2000 for them when I bought them now. I have pictures of each ladder that was stolen. Do I have a case to get any kind of payment for the property I left? I am sure the landlord sold them and even have a text message from him stating that he did sell them. Please let me know what the best course of action to take would be.

    Thanks,

    Charlie

    • Anne Barnett

      I’m no expert but from watching television court shows, I would say that since you waited almost a year to get your ladders back that they had a right to sell them. Landlords have to keep “abandoned” property for a reasonable amount of time. 12 months is far beyond reasonable. Now if you could prove that they took possession within days of leaving and sold the items before a reasonable amount of time passed then you might have a case.

  • Patrick

    I let a homeless guy move on. He later let his boyfriend stay and the worked as partners junking. Never gave me a dime in 8 months. They broke up and he left and took nothing. A month later his ex left and took modt everything. Am i liable for his stuff if he wants it back? I dodnt know how to contact him. Im in Missouri.

    • Anne Barnett

      I don’t think that you would be liable since he left the stuff with an ex as well as you. How were you to know what was his and what was his boyfriend’s? If he didn’t come by to get any of his things in the month that the ex was still there, I would say that it was abandoned.

  • Russell m

    My girlfriend or common law wife. Was living with me for about a year. She moved all of her furniture into my home. About a month ago she left without warning with our daughter. Stated days after she left that she was not returning. She has said that she is coming to get her belongings but it has been over a month. And I no longer want her things in my home. We had no lease agreement we were planning on getting married. Now as I said she has not returned to claim all of her belongings in over a month. Is there any way that I can legally dispose of her furniture? It must I just allow her to continue to use my home as her personal storage unit? I’m in Texas

  • Ed

    I had a commercial tenant who walked away from a unit and left lots of furniture, and other personal property. It would be less expensive to drop these off at his home than to dispose of them. May I simply return the former tenant’s property to him?

  • Angela

    My ex husband has left his vehicle at my house for 2 years and I have asked him several times through messages to come get it. I’m from Tennessee and was wondering if I have the right to dispose of it? I have messages from 2015. It’s paid for and does not run. I just want it gone out of my yard!

  • YOLANDA JACKSON

    Hi
    I was renting to own a storage building. At this time I got sick and could not pay. I called them to come and get the storage building, that was 4 months ago. They are holding my yatd hostage. By keep saying they will come and get it and they never never do. How long can they keep saying they are coming and never showing up. It’s going on 5 months. The company said they can’t find a driver to tow it away. What can i do?

  • Krystal

    Hi. I have been a tenant at my home since April. When i moved here my landlord said I could have everything that was left behind. The previous tenants are my landlords daughter and granddaughter, and they were terribly dirty and put holes in the walls, no bedroom doors, etc. I never heard from them about the items left behind after the first month of residing here. At the first of July I met these women, and they illegally come into my home while I was at work. They lied to my landlord saying I had filth and dogs everywhere which he was fine with me having pets. Apparently my oldest small dog was pregnant when I moved and had seven puppies. They were in a kennel and are ready to go now to homes. I keep them outside.

  • Krystal

    Sorry for this being long I just do t know what to do. Last Sunday, these women come back to my house for their items, at 10 am. I had to leave for work but my roommate stayed here while they cussed us out, calling my landlord screaming at him about the shape of this home, I assure you that we have done no damage and actually have repaired more than I feel we should. They stole my tv from my bedroom because they claim to be missing personal items. They also claimed my a.c. window u its belonged to them so they took them as well. I filed a police report on them. Now I have a 14 day notice to quit..I feel like its forged because of the harshness of the women longing to have this home back.

  • Robin Porter

    My brother in law had a so called friend that let my sister and my niece live in for two years but had to pay $1,000 when they had money to give the friend. They never paid the guy rent to live their .My sister and her husband and their daughter had to move out and the guy changed the lock on the door and they lefted furiture and tools and some clothing behind.The guy took the furiture and freezer,refrigerator and tools,trailer and wont give it back. He told my brother in law it’s his for nonpayment of rent.The furiture that he has at his parents house in their garage just so happens to belong to my dad and late mom. What can I do I want the furiture back that was my late mom’s table,hutch,and buffet .Help!!! Robin Porter

  • S.Stone

    My tenant is happily moving to another area on our property. But she has 2 vehicles, 2 campers, that are unlivable, on our property, and tons of we call junk in our old barn. We are giving her 30 days from the moving to clear out her stuff outside. We are selling the land she is on now, so instead of throwing her out, she wants to move on other spot on our property. How do I get her to get the junk off the property? She is consientley complaining about her health of doenst have anyone to help her??

  • Christopher

    I had housemat in a house which I rented, who I ended up kicking out after about a month of abuse. I was unable to get him to sign a housemate agreement, nor respect my personal property. In the middle of June I gave him until the end of July to be out. He failed to pay rent for July and moved out a week into July. He not only moved his stuff out, but he stole and damaged some of my property.

    I notifed him at the end of July that he had a week to gather the rest of his belongings and return mine. He denied taking my things, and said he didn’t know when he could get his stuff.

    Exactly a month passes, and now he wants to come collect his stuff. I still have some of it, but some has walked away since it was not secure. What do I do?

  • Evan Wells

    My ex-husband moved out a year ago. I have been storing his furniture and some personal items of his in the garage since he moved out. After the divorce was finalized I told him to move his things out by the end of his next visit to see our son. He did not meet this deadline. I then extended the deadline by 10 days to give him one last chance. I sent him an e-mail very similar to the one above. It was not quite as formal, and was missing the properties actual address, and what I would do to the his items if he missed this deadline. I live in Illinois. Am I within the law to sell or donate his items of he misses this deadline? What Should I do? Thank you

  • Adam Kaumans

    I had my house roofed by a contractor. He left his trailer for hauling the debris from the old roofing material completely full in my driveway. It has been 6 weeks and when I contact him he keeps telling me “soon”. Can I have it moved off of my property and onto the public street so it then becomes the cities problem? Or can I send him a notice to pick up or I will claim it and scrap it? Any help would be appreciated.

  • Maria Blanco

    I have a tenant that is letting all types of people in the unit, from homeless to drugys. What kind of notice other then an unauthorized tenant can be given?

  • Evelyn

    I have been taking care of a friends dog and his personal belongings. Last night he assaulted me n took off. A police report was made and charges were pressed. He owes me money. Can i hold his personal belongings until he pays me? The stuff has been here about 2 months. I live in georgia and i am not sure what the laws are.

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