Imagine this. You go to pick up a rent check from your tenants and after repeated attempts, discover they’ve abandoned the unit, leaving what appears to be a mound of trash and personal property behind. Or, you were successful in an eviction action
, and the same scenario unfolds. What do you do?
Call for a dumpster, right? Aw c’mon. We know nothing could be that easy.
When law enforcement performs the eviction, the stuff the tenant leaves behind must either be stored on the property or at a storage facility. If the landlord is planning on storing the items on the property, she must prepare an inventory listing the items and their condition. This list must be signed and dated in the presence of a law enforcement officer acting on a court order, include the name and telephone number of the person authorized to release the property, as well as the officer’s name and badge number.
The landlord must remove and store the property. If it’s damaged or lost, guess what? She’s responsible for it. And if she’s moving the stuff out? She needs to try to contact the tenant by first class mail and telephone.
While on the surface it may seem more cost and labor efficient to store the personal belongings on the property, there’s a catch. If the tenant’s stuff is stored on the property, he can simply demand, in writing that it be returned. And the landlord has to return it; without repayment of rent. By law, she doesn’t have a lien on the items.
The landlord must return the tenant’s property within 24 hours after the tenant’s request. If she doesn’t, she can be fined up to $300 plus attorney’s fees.
However, if the tenant’s stuff is stored someplace else; like a storage facility, the landlord does have a lien on the items. The lien does not include back rent or late fees. It is in the amount of reasonable costs of moving and storing the property, plus court costs of the eviction action. The landlord doesn’t have to return the items until these expenses are paid.
What are the chances of that happening? Who knows.
So how long does the landlord have to keep the items? Sixty days. At that time, she can dump them or sell them. However, two weeks prior to doing so, she needs to try to contact the tenant with this information, either personally or via certified mail sent to the tenant’s last known address. There’s more. The landlord also has to post a notice of the sale someplace obvious on the premises two weeks before the sale.
Any proceeds from the sale may be applied toward the tenant’s debt. While it’s unlikely, what if the landlord profited from the sale? The extra money belongs to the tenant.
In all likelihood, it’s not a check the landlord would ever have to write. In my experience, tenants knew what was valuable; and took it with them.