Jaspers, Moriarty & Wetherille, P.A.
Seasoned Legal Judgment For The South Metro Area

What to Do With Your Tenant's Stuff


The short answer is you can't just throw it in the dumpster. Usually a landlord needs to keep a tenant's left behind property for a period of time. However, if the property is valuable, that property can be another source to collect unpaid rents or for damage caused by the tenant. Failing to follow the appropriate process can make landlords liable to tenants for the value of the property, attorney fees and even additional punitive damages of $1,000 or more. In most cases, making every effort to encourage tenants to take all of their personal property can help landlords avoid the headaches of storage and disposal. When tenants leave property, however, being prepared to conduct the proper process can also save landlords time and money.

The first question every landlord must answer is whether a tenant has abandoned the rented premises or been evicted. In practice, this can be difficult to determine. It is best to discuss this issue with an attorney who can evaluate the circumstances of each individual case. Depending upon the answer to this question and other practical considerations regarding storage of the property, the landlord will need to store the property for 28 to 60 days. A detailed inventory with photographs and video should always be prepared. If a writ of recovery has been executed, the law enforcement officer should be asked to sign off on the inventory. The landlord will remain responsible for transporting and storing the property in a reasonably careful manner. It could be stored off site, or locked in the property by the landlord. Once the proper statutory period expires, the landlord may sell the tenant's personal property by auction to recover their storage costs and apply any remaining balance to other amounts owed. However, the landlord must carefully follow the statutory process to avoid costly liability.

The basics of dealing with a tenant's stuff can be complicated, but with the assistance of an attorney, can mean the difference between a landlord needing to shell out money to a tenant, and the landlord getting to sell property and put the money in their pocket. The cost for failing to follow the correct process often vastly exceeds the small cost of consultation with an attorney. By contacting a lawyer at JMW early on in the process, the landlord can often also obtain the necessary advice and forms for notices that are required by law.

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