Every so often a tenant will leave something behind (sometimes its a lot of stuff). So what do you do? Throw it out? Sell it? Recycle it? Shoot it?
As with any landlord-tenant issue, these matters should be handled professionally by documenting everything and issuing a formal notice. Some states will even provide their own forms for you to use. California (as you would imagine) provides specific information regarding abandoned property on different forms (see Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1946, 1946.1).
As a general rule:
- Don’t open any locked contents.
- Video or photograph the property to document its condition.
- Write a letter to the tenant detailing a description of their property left behind.
- Include an estimated value of the property if it was to be sold.
- Provide an address where the contents may be picked up.
- Give at least 30 days notice and explain what will happen to the contents as dictated by state law.
It’s always best to send a letter of this nature (or state form if required) via certified mail to document its delivery and a copy also by regular mail – this is what attorneys do as a matter of standard practice. Although, priority mail delivery confirmation may be sufficient enough to document your compliance.
What if the Tenant Doesn’t Respond?
This is where you need to look up the current state statute addressing abandoned property. Some allow you to discard the contents or sell it to recoup unpaid rent or the cost to repair damage. Other states require you to give the property to the state. Some states even require landlords to use a licensed and bonded public auctioneer to conduct a public sale after publishing it in a local newspaper.
For those states that require the proceeds of a sale/auction to be returned to the tenant, allow the landlord to deduct the cost of storing the contents, advertising the sale and conducting the sale.
The following is a list of the citations under each state that may be searched for current information regarding the handling of a tenant’s abandoned property:
|Alabama||Ala. Code 1975 § 35-9A-423||Missouri||Mo. Rev. Stat. § 441.065|
|Alaska||Alaska Stat. § 34.03.260||Montana||Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-430|
|Arizona||Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1370, 33-1368(E)||Nebraska||Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 69-2303 to 69-2314|
|Arkansas||Ark. Code Ann. § 18-16-108||Nevada||Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 118A.450, 118A.460|
|California||Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1965, 1980 to 1991||New Hampshire||N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 540-A:3(VII)|
|Colorado||Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-40-122, 38-20-116||New Jersey||N.J.
Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:18-72; 2A:18-82
|Connecticut||Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 47a-11b, 47a-42||New Mexico||N.M. Stat. Ann. § 47-8-34.1|
|Delaware||Del. Code Ann. tit. 25, §§ 5507, 5715||New York||No statute|
|D.C.||(D.C. Code Ann. § 42-3505.01(o)1(A))||North Carolina||N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-25.9, 42-36.2|
|Florida||Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 715.104 to 715.111||North Dakota||N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-30.1|
|Georgia||Ga. Code Ann. § 44-7-55||Ohio||No statute|
|Hawaii||Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-56||Oklahoma||Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 41,
|Idaho||Idaho Code § 6-311c||Oregon||Ore. Rev. Stat. §§ 90.425, 105.165|
|Illinois||735 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/9-318||Pennsylvania||68 Pa. Stat. § 250.505.1|
|Indiana||Ind. Code. Ann. §§ 32-31-4-1 to 32-31-4-5, 32-31-5-5||Rhode Island||R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-50|
|South Carolina||S.C. Code Ann. §§ 27-40-710(D), 27-40-730|
|Iowa||Iowa Code § 555B.2||South Dakota||S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §§ 43-32-25, 43-32-26|
|Kansas||Kan. Stat. Ann. § 58-2565||Tennessee||Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-405|
|Kentucky||No statute||Texas||Tex. Prop. Code § 92.014|
|Louisiana||La. Civ. Code § 2707, La. Civ. Proc. § 4705||Utah||Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-816|
|Maine||Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit.
14, §§ 6005, 6013
|Vermont||Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4462|
|Maryland||Md. Code, Real Property, § 8-208||Virginia||Va. Code Ann. §§ 55-248.38:1 to .38:2|
|Massachusetts||Mass. Gen. Laws §§ 239-3 and -4||Washington||Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 59.18.310|
|Michigan||No statute||West Virginia||W.Va. Code §§ 37-6-6, 55-3A-3(h)|
|Minnesota||Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 504B.271 and 504B.365||Wisconsin||Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(5)|
|Mississippi||No statute||Wyoming||Wyo. Stat. § 1-21-1210|