What Happens When You Find Stuff That Tenants Left Behind? Property Management Tips

Did your renter move out and leave behind a mess—or personal belongings? When this happens, rental property owners must proceed with caution when handling belongings that a tenant leaves behind. 

Before you toss items in the dumpster or try to sell things to your friends, follow these tips from our expert property management team. No matter the circumstances of your tenant’s departure, their belongings are still “theirs” until you work through a few steps to deal with their abandoned mess. 

Check With Your Lawyer

Start by checking with your lawyer. Depending on the circumstances of your newly empty property, the rules can be different when processing belongings that your tenant left after moving out. 

Work with your lawyer to assess the best approach depending on how and why your tenant left the rental. These situations can include:

  • The lease ended. If the lease ended and your renters moved out without any issues, you might be able to dispose of any belongings left behind by the renter legally. However, work with your lawyer and a property manager to follow the necessary steps before disposing of the items. 
  • You legally evicted the renter. If you evicted your renter by following the legal process, you could be responsible for getting the renter’s belongings back to the renter. Work with your local law enforcement and a lawyer to remove the property and handle it appropriately. 
  • You served a legal notice to vacate. When you serve notice, then a tenant abandons the rental and leaves items behind, you have flexibility in handling their things. 
  • The renter leaves without notice. Renters that move out without any legal notice may have some rights to the property they left in your rental. Follow the lease agreement for nonpayment of rent and legally terminate the lease. 

Messy abandoned garage full of stuff

When residents leave stuff behind, property owners face a delicate situation before clearing the property and getting ready for new renters. Rely on your legal counsel and an expert property management team to help you work through the process and avoid a lawsuit. 

Check the Lease Agreement

Your lease should also help guide you when dealing with abandoned belongings. A thorough lease agreement includes information that addresses any property left behind by a former resident.

A property manager and your lawyer can help you draft appropriate and legal language that documents how you’ll handle the abandoned property. A disposal fee for items left behind might be appropriate. Outline a timeframe for claiming property and how you’ll proceed (within the law) if a tenant does not attempt to claim their items and arrange pickup. 

Try to Reach the Renter 

Don’t forget the critical step of trying to reach your tenant! Even if they left without notice in the middle of the night, make honest attempts to contact them and connect with their left behind items.

State or local laws may require that you give the renter a legal notice and reasonable timeframe to collect their abandoned belongings. This notice should include a description of the abandoned property, its estimated value, the deadline for retrieval, and what will happen after that period.

If the renter doesn’t return to get their belongings during that period, you should be able to dispose of the items. In some cases, it could be legal to sell the abandoned property and recover some lost rental income. 

Dispose of Items Properly

While items of value might require storage for a short time before selling or disposal, trash is trash. In most situations, property owners are not required to keep trash, especially if it’s causing unsafe conditions or hazards in your rental. Trash can go to the dump. If it’s a costly process, deduce those costs from the tenant’s security deposit. 

If the legal process leads you to sell items, work with your property manager and legal counsel to conduct a legal sale of each item with documentation. For abandoned vehicles, involve your local law enforcement to assess and remove the vehicle from the property.

Cropped man holding miniature house with keysLook for a New Renter

Dealing with an empty property full of abandoned tenant belongings can be time-consuming. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start looking for a new tenant right away.

As soon as you’re able to remove items and either store them offsite or dispose of them, begin the make-ready process and list your property. A quality listing and a thorough tenant screening process can help you avoid a future situation with tenants who abandon your property (and theirs)!

Property Management Deals With Abandoned Tenant Items

If you’d rather not deal with items left behind by your tenant, the right property management company can help! We understand that it can be overwhelming to understand the law and how to properly handle belongings that renters left if your property after moving out.

Reeder Asset Management has plenty of experience dealing with unfortunate tenant situations, including clearing items out of properties and processing them according to the law. If you’re ready to learn more about how we can help, let’s talk!

Learn more about protecting your properties from bad tenants and lost income! Download our free resource, “Protecting Your Investment Property: A Guide.”


Posted by:
Reeder Asset Management on June 4, 2021