Lease Basics: Unclaimed Property

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on August 5, 2011 under Lease and Rental Agreements | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblogWhen a tenant moves out, but leaves personal property behind, what is the best way for a landlord to handle it? As with most tenant issues, the best way to take care of a problem is to prevent it in the first place. And barring that, it’s best to have it covered in your lease so there are no questions about how to proceed, and the tenant has already agreed to the process.

Tenants often leave furniture, clothes, books or appliances behind when they move. Some no longer want the items, and figure the landlord will just clean up after them. Others want the landlord to store their property until they are able to retrieve it. Either way, it can be troublesome for the landlord.

When a Tenant Abandons Property
First, check your local laws on abandoned property. You may be obligated to hold a previous tenant’s property for a period of time, which could be five days or 30 days, before you may dispose of it. Some jurisdictions require landlords to send notices via registered mail as well. Failing to follow your local laws could land you in legal trouble, so if you’re in doubt, obtain legal counsel.

Preventing the Left-Behind Property
The best scenario is when landlord and tenant do a walk-through of the rental property on move-out day. A move-out inspection is conducted and the tenant initials each item, recognizing any damage or possible deductions from the security deposit. However, that’s not always possible. If you or your property manager are not present when the tenant leaves (and many do so under the cover of darkness—especially if they’re leaving behind a mess), you could be in for a big surprise when you come to inspect the property.

Every rental agreement should contain a clause that clearly addresses how the property owner will handle any property left behind after the lease is up. Abandoned property should be defined, and the time between the end of the lease and the disposal of the property clearly stated. Remember, you’re not running a storage facility, and you could be entitled to rent for each day a tenant’s personal belongings are in your rental property.

You could simply state that all property left behind after termination of the lease will be considered abandoned and will be disposed of, according to statute. Of course you should consult a landlord/tenant attorney for exact language and guidance.

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