The best way to handle property abandoned by a tenant and avoid legal problems is with a little common sense and following your state laws! While laws differ from state to state, usually a property owner cannot simply take or keep personal property left behind by a former tenant. Nor can they discard an immovable asset.
Instead, a rental property owner must follow a series of important steps to document and control access to the items. Only thereafter, can rental property owners safely and confidently dispose of a former tenant’s abandoned property.
When a tenant moves out, they sometimes leave things behind. Sometimes tenants leave a rental home in poor condition, with trash and personal items for the property owner to clean up. Some will also leave items such as furniture, unforwarded mail, personal items, and clothing.
Abandoned property can be a problem for property owners for several reasons. Beyond needing to clear out the rental home for the next tenant, it can lead to serious legal trouble if not handled properly.
Securing property abandoned by a tenant
What often complicates the matter, is that the laws governing personal property left in rental homes differ from state to state. Sometimes even from county to county. For property owners, it is critical to know the laws that govern each of their rental properties. And follow them to the best of your ability. In most places, it involves common sense tasks. Having control over access to the former tenant’s personal property is the first step. You can do this by recovering all keys and garage door openers, or by changing locks.
Some states may allow you to secure personal property in a storage unit. Or require items to be left on the premises. One of the worst things to happen to a property owner is the theft of a former tenant’s personal property. Civil and criminal charges can result, creating unwanted legal problems.
Documenting property abandoned by a tenant
Once secure, you must document the abandoned property in detail. You can do this in several ways, such as by making a detailed video recording of the items. Or by photographing it, and creating a detailed list. Taking photos and videos accompanied by a detailed written list of items is the best way to document the property’s condition. Just in case questions about property damage arise later on.
The importance of a witness
Once you move the abandoned items legally, invite a neutral person to act as a witness. This will prevent any questions about theft or illegal handling of the tenant’s property. And confirm that you have handled the property safely and appropriately. Ensure, you fully understand the tenants’ rights to reclaim their property in your area. Also, try to notify the former tenant in writing, exactly what items were left behind and what you have done with them. If the law allows, you can also inform the tenant of a deadline to reclaim their items. And what do you plan to do with their things after that date?
Again, laws vary, but many places allow property owners to keep, sell or otherwise dispose of the abandoned property once all of the proper steps have been taken. Even if things go smoothly, dealing with a former tenant’s abandoned personal property will take up valuable time and cost you money. The potential legal problems are real and can make the process complex.
How can we help?
Instead of navigating these murky circumstances yourself, consider how much better it would be to let Real Property Management Premier do it for you. Our property management professionals have in-depth knowledge of local laws to handle abandoned property appropriately. Look no further than Real Property Management Premier.
Contact us online or call 954-800-4433 and ask our property managers about our services in detail.
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