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When a tenant suddenly moves out without any notice the question arises, what to do with the stuff left behind?

When a tenant suddenly moves out without any notice the question arises, what to do with the stuff left behindWhen a tenant suddenly moves out without any notice the question arises, what to do with the stuff left behind?  According to Tenant Resource Center both the tenant and the property manager have rights and rules that need to be followed. A tenants’ property means all of the tenants’ possessions, including:

  • Things stored in a garage, attic or basement
  • Cars or other vehicles parked on the rental property
  • Air conditioners or other fixtures
  • Mobile or manufactured homes (if the tenant owns it)
  • Things that the landlord thinks are trash

NOTE:  These rules do not cover property in a self-storage facility. Those are different rules.

The landlord cannot do anything to abandoned property unless one of the following apply:

  • A landlord can take out a “lien” on the tenants property (hold as collateral until a payment is made, or take the property instead of a payment) only if the tenant agreed to this in a NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISION, which is part of the lease. This agreement has to be on a separate piece of paper, initialed or signed by the tenant when the lease is signed.
  • As a general rule, the landlord may not seize, throw out, lock up, or otherwise deny a tenant access to their property, unless they have a signed “lien” from the tenant.
  • Landlords have a right to tow unauthorized vehicles from rental properties. If a sign is properly posted, an unauthorized vehicle can be towed at the owners’ expense, without notice or ticketing.  If the landlord has not posted a sign, the vehicle must be ticketed before towing. In either case, the landlord must use a towing service and that service must notify law enforcement of the make, model VIN and license plate number.  If the car is stolen it cannot be towed and needs to be impounded until fees are paid.  If the fees are not paid within 30 days a vehicle can be considered abandoned and disposed of.
  • If a tenant installs a fixture like shelving, a ceiling fan, or a grab-bar, and that tenant leaves it behind when they move out, the fixture becomes the landlord’s property.  If the landlord doesn’t want the fixtures, they have the right to charge the tenant for the cost of removing them and restoring the property to its former condition. Tenants must get the landlord’s permission to install fixtures. This should be in writing, with copies for everyone.
  • Medical prescriptions and equipment must always be stored for at least 7 days and returned promptly when asked for no matter what.

So what happens if a landlord breaks these rules? If the landlord illegally confiscates property, there are several options.

  • Law enforcement may be called to report an illegal eviction, if the landlord throws property away without a court order.
  • A written request can be made for the landlord to return the property, or give access to it. If the landlord does not comply further action can be taken.
  • A complaint may be filed with Consumer Protection
  • Filing for either a replevin (return of property) or money damages, in a small claims court.

NOTE:  Remember there are different rules for property left behind in a court ordered eviction, and property left behind when a lease ends or if the tenant suddenly moves out.


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