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How to Deal With Abandoned Property in Your Rental Unit

Abandoned property is a problem that every landlord eventually has to deal with. When tenants move out, they sometimes leave behind unwanted furniture, trash, and other items. While it may be tempting to simply throw these things away, there are actually a few things you need to do first.

In the United States, there are laws governing the disposal of abandoned property. These laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to know what the laws are in your state. Failure to follow the proper procedures can result in legal problems down the road.

What are the Legal Obligations of the Landlord?

When it comes to abandoned property, landlords have a few legal obligations. First, you must make a reasonable effort to contact the tenant and give them the opportunity to retrieve their belongings. This can be done by leaving a notice on the door or sending a certified letter.

The notice should state that the tenant has a certain amount of time to retrieve their belongings, typically 30 days. If the tenant does not retrieve their belongings within that time frame, the landlord is then able to dispose of the property.

In some states, the landlord is required to hold onto the property for a certain amount of time, typically 60 days, before disposing of it. This gives the tenant a chance to come back for their belongings if they’ve had a change of heart.

In most cases, the landlord is allowed to dispose of the property in any way they see fit. However, there are some exceptions. For example, in California, the landlord must sell the property at a public auction.

How to Remove Left-Behind Property From a Unit

Here are five tips for removing left-behind property from a rental unit:

1. Give the Tenant a Notice

The first step is to give the tenant a notice that you will be removing their property. This notice should be in writing and should be served in person or by certified mail. The notice should state when you will be removing the property and where it will be taken. It should also state that the tenant has the right to retrieve their property within a certain period, typically 30 days.

2. Take an Inventory

Once you have served the notice, you should take an inventory of the property. This inventory should be detailed and should include a description of each item, as well as its value. It’s a good idea to take photos of the property as well.

3. Store the Property

The next step is to store the property. You can either store it on the premises, or you can have it removed to a storage facility. If you store it on the premises, you should make sure that it is secure and that it cannot be accessed by the tenant.

4. Dispose of the Property

If the tenant does not retrieve their property within the specified period of time, you can dispose of it. The best way to dispose of it is to sell it at a public auction. You can also donate it to a charity or throw it away.

5. Keep Detailed Records

Throughout the process, you should keep detailed records. These records should include the notice that you served, the inventory that you took, and the disposition of the property. These records will come in handy if there is ever a dispute.


If you find yourself in a situation where your tenant has abandoned property behind, there are a few options available to you. You can either try to sell the property, donate it, or simply dispose of it. However, before taking any action, it’s important to check with your local laws to see what is allowed in your area.

When it comes to abandoned property, it’s important to follow the law. These tips will help you to do just that.

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