During your tenure as a landlord you may run across a tenant who leaves some of their belongings behind after they vacate a unit. Each state has slightly different laws about how to deal with discarded property so you should check with your local and state ordinances to get the proper procedure for your area but there are some general rules that apply everywhere.
Tenancy Must be Terminated
Obviously you cannot take something from a tenant while they?re living in your unit, that?s obvious theft, but what if they?re gone? Even if the tenant is gone you can?t take their property until the lease has officially been terminated, this may require written notice, verbal notice, an eviction proceeding or a certain period of time.
Wait for Abandonment
Also, if a tenant vacates their place and leaves something behind you have to wait a predefined period of time to officially declare it abandoned.
Notification of Property
One would think that the tenants know they left stuff behind but the landlord is still required to send written notice to the now ex-tenant that they have left property behind. This notice also informs them of their legal rights and the predefined waiting periods for your region. You also can inform them (or bill them) for any storage fees while you hold their property.
Yes, it is the landlord?s responsibility to store property safely throughout the entire waiting period. But as mentioned above, you can recoup any losses for this or you can charge a reasonable storage fee of your own.
Finally when you?ve completed all steps of notification and proper storage and the property is still abandoned after the waiting period it is your responsibility to dispose of it. You can sell or donate the property or you can throw it away.
It?s essential that you research your local and state laws for abandoned tenant property because if you handle the situation you can actually be held accountable and sued by the tenant for the value of their property.