Tenants Belongings After Eviction: What Are Your Responsibilities?

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When a difficult tenant finally moves out after eviction proceedings, the last thing that you want to deal with is another headache. Unfortunately, it’s possible that evicted tenants might leave their belongings behind.

And if they do, removing a tenants property left behind after an eviction is not as simple as just throwing it away.

Even if it looks like trash to you, those items might hold value to someone else.

If an evicted tenant left possessions behind, you as a landlord have some responsibilities to ensure that the tenant has a fair chance to retrieve said belongings before they’re disposed.

Not following through on these responsibilities could mean a big loss of money for you, so it’s time to learn about the procedures.

For those dealing with tenants belongings after eviction, these tips will ensure you handle the situations properly.

A Table of Contents For Clearing Tenant Belongings After Eviction

Why Did They Leave?

To fully understand what you must do when an evicted tenant leaves possessions behind, you need to look at the exact reason for eviction. Depending on the circumstances surrounding said eviction, you will have a varied number of responsibilities.

Every state has a different set of laws about whether or not you are responsible for getting an evicted tenant’s belongings back to them or not.

The law officers that handle the tenant removal should help to direct any property removal as well as the determination of what you can and cannot sell to cover unpaid rent. It’s impossible to cover every eviction situation, as every court order will set up a different precedence.

Today, we’re talking about eviction, so the rest of this article will only discuss belongings from evicted tenants.

A Chance To Retrieve

While not all states require it, it makes sense for landlords to consider a holding period on all abandoned property. By keeping belongings for a short period of time and giving tenants a chance to retrieve it, you lower any risk of a tenant being able to sue you for lost property.

It’s relatively simple to give evicted tenants a chance to retrieve their items, and the evicted tenant will in most cases be responsible for covering the cost.

Unless your state otherwise dictates a holding period, you will likely find that keeping items for 7 to 10 days is more than enough. If an evicted tenant wants their belongings back, they will return during this period.

Tip: In some states, you must keep the belongings for a longer period, so check out this website to find the details of your state’s laws.

Storage and Disposal

If an evicted tenant left a lot of items behind, you may be at a loss for where to begin addressing this issue. Here is what you need to do.

The Removal Procedure

Take Out The Trash

Throw away all property that is clearly trash. Keep track of any costs incurred for disposal.

Organize & Inventory

Once all the trash is gone, take a full inventory of the products with value that remain. Do not open any locked items, but be sure to have a thorough list of everything that you will be storing. If possible, take photographic records of all of the items.

Store The Items

You can store them on the property, or you can store them in a storage unit away from the property. Since you may want to begin preparing the property for your next tenants, paying for a storage unit elsewhere is the preferred choice of many landlords.
There is one thing that you should be careful about.

In some state, the items must be kept inside the property for a short period before you can move them. For example, the items must be kept at the property for the first 10 days of storage in Pennsylvania.

Send A Notice

As mentioned in the “A Chance To Retrieve” section above, it’s important that you let the evicted tenant know where they can find their belongings and for how long.

This notice can also detail any costs that you are incurring by storing their belongings and that they will be responsible for that cost.

Include all of the following information in the notice:

  • Inventory of abandoned property
  • Associated value
  • Where property can be retrieved
  • Retrieval period
  • How it will be disposed of if left unclaimed

If you have an emergency contact for the evicted tenant, you should send a notice to them as well.

Dispose Or Sell

If the tenant does not come to retrieve their items, you can dispose of or sell the belongings. Some items, such as cars, must be reported to the local police as abandoned property.

You cannot simply take possession of or sell the car without letting the local law enforcement know. In some states, any profits that you as a landlord make from selling abandoned property must be given to the state. For this reason, it’s important that you check out your local laws.

Pay Yourself

Once you get to this stage, it is important that you account for any damages left at the property and losses that you have incurred by storing and disposing of the abandoned property. The profit from a local bond sale or any items that you sell off individually can be used to cover these remaining costs.

Protect Your Future

To prevent any future situations where you become stuck with belongings for an excessive amount of time due to regulations, consider adding a clause to your lease terms.

In these terms, be sure to mention the following:

  • Disposal fee for abandoned property
  • Offer separate arrangements if tenant cannot move it all at once
  • Detail how long you will be responsible for keeping items

By including these terms in your contract from the beginning, you will be able to more easily remove belongings from a property whether you evict the tenant or not before they leave. The contract serves as a means of protecting you from potential court cases.

Even if the terms added to your lease do not differ from local laws, including them in your rental contract will make it easy to reference the procedures at all times.

Conclusion

Even if an evicted tenant leaves behind many rooms of stuff, you cannot simply trash it all as soon as they are gone. Though they have been evicted, their property is still their property, and you as a landlord do not have a right to impede on that right.

For that reason, you should become familiar with the following:

  • Your state’s rules on storage holding period
  • How to write a notice of abandoned property
  • If your contract includes language about belongings left behind

Landlords who know this crucial information will find it much easier to address and resolve the problem of tenants belongings after eviction. Without this information, you may find yourself in a sticky situation where you owe the evicted tenant money for losing their belongings!