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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What to do with tenant’s abandoned personal property – Landlord Tenant Tuesday

There are legally outlined steps that every landlord must take to deal with property left behind by tenants who have moved out. Any landlord should follow these steps in order to protect themselves from claims by the tenant who has moved out – claims that could allege the landlord destroyed or even stole the tenant’s property.

Many landlords are familiar with performing clean up and repairing damage to a unit after a tenant vacates voluntarily, or with aid of the sheriff or marshal. Often times, landlords must also deal with disposing of a pile of random personal items left behind. Sometimes the things left behind can be recognized as ordinary trash, so there is usually no problem with tossing it. However, be careful what you characterize as trash because something that looks like trash to you could be an expensive “vintage” item.

In some instances, the landlord may have a judgment against a tenant for unpaid rent or damages to the premises, and this tenant left behind valuable property that she never claims. In that case, the landlord can safely have the property sold and the money applied to pay the judgment, but only if the landlord follows the legal procedures outlined below.

First of all, a landlord cannot touch a tenant’s property until the landlord has legally gained possession of the premises. Gaining possession legally can mean when a tenant voluntarily leaves, whether or not she gives the landlord the keys, or when the tenant is physically evicted by the sheriff. If a tenant leaves personal property behind, and doesn’t demand his property then a landlord can face serious liability for disposing of the junk, unless the landlord uses a Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. This is called for in Civil Code sections 1980 through 1991.

Action One: Inventory
A landlord must take an inventory of the abandoned property and write down a list of everything that is found. If there are containers left behind, just list the unopened container, do not open the container or locked trunk. A landlord may be able to get away with opening a container to check on the value of the property since the method of disposing of the property depends on the total value of that property.

Action Two: Decide the Value
A landlord must decide whether the value of the property is more than $300. Typically, you would judge the value by how much you think the item would go for at a flea market or garage sale.

Action Three: Notify the Tenant(s)
A landlord must send the former tenant(s) the Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. There is no deadline for this like there is for an accounting of a security deposit, but the landlord cannot legally dispose of the property until this process begins with the notice. The Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property should list:
-          The name of the tenant and any other person who could have an interest in the property
-          The address of the premises
-          A description of the property (“in a manner reasonably adequate to permit the owner of the property to identify it” per Civil Code section 1983(b)).
-          A place where the property may be claimed.
-          The value of the property; whether the property, in your opinion, is worth more or less than $300
-          Your signature and date the Notice was mailed.

The Notice should be mailed to the last known address of the tenant. The postal service will forward the notice if the tenant left a forwarding address.

The landlord must surrender the property if the tenant contacts the landlord within 18 days after the Notice was mailed. Even if a Notice wasn’t mailed, the landlord must surrender the property within 18 days after the tenant has left where the tenant demands her property. Before returning the property, a landlord has the right to charge moving and storage costs, and any out-of-pocket costs the landlord incurs for renting storage space. If a landlord has a court judgment, in order to properly keep the property to have it sold and applied against such a judgment, the landlord must have the sheriff seize the property and auction it off.

If the former tenant or other owner of the property left behind doesn’t contact you within 18 days of mailing the Notice, you may keep, sell, give away, use or do anything else you wish with the property, IF it is all worth less than $300. If the property is worth more than $300, then you must arrange for the property to be sold at a public auction and then publish a notice in the newspaper announcing the auction. The ad must be published at least 5 days before the auction. You must also hire a licensed and bonded public auctioneer.

The ad must be in a newspaper of general circulation that has paid subscribers in the county. The ad must also describe the property in the same way you described it in the Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. Proceeds are first used to pay reasonable costs of storage, advertising and sale. Anything left over goes to the county. To use the balance to satisfy a judgment against the tenant, a landlord must give the judgment and a Writ of Execution to the sheriff to levy the funds in the county’s control.

Following these procedures will protect a landlord from any liability in the event the tenant or other owner of the property left behind shows up later and sues for unlawful conversion of her property.

46 comments:

  1. I appreciate all of the information that you have shared. Thank you for the hard work!
    - eviction lawyer cambridge

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good article!

    The law changed in California on January 1, 2013 increasing the threshold value to $700

    My company offers landlords and property management companies a complete service from appraisal to auction and reporting to act as an indemnification shield against ticked off former tenants

    http://www.theauctionarium.com/bankers.php

    It's a unique marketplace best left to the experts

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  3. I work for a nonprofit transitional housing organization. I received a phone call from my boss (the Executive Director) that a man who resides in the men's home was murdered. Because he had no family or friends, and he was born in Cuba, she wanted me to create a policy/step-by-step procedure for disposal of his property. Where do I go on the Internet to acquire a sample policy of California's law.What if the individual was murdered? What is the policy/step-by-step procedure for disposing of his personal property?

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    Replies
    1. The law is the same under any type of tenancy

      Delete
  4. What can a landowner do if the tenant refuses to provide a forwarding address and won't return phone calls?

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    1. SusieQ:

      That is an excellent question and one that is addressed by the California code.

      Plain English the law requires the landlord or foreclosing property owner to "... deliver written notice via pre-paid first class mail to the LAST KNOWN ADDRESS of the tenant.

      Standard practice when a tenant has not provided anything is to address the notice to the address where they were just evicted from.

      This serves several purposes:

      1) compliance with the law

      2) Actual notice of "Right to Reclaim" to the former tenant

      3) USPS change of address is customary and notice will in many cases be forwarded and the property claimed within the 18-day period.

      2013 made two major changes in favor of Landlords.

      Notice may additionally be sent to the last known e-mail address in addition to first class mailing.

      Auction threshold was increased from $300 to $700 value because the cost of publication of legal notices in many areas is higher than the $300 threshold.

      modify one of the statements in the notice to
      12/B1i1ll /T1e2xt: CA Assembly Bill 2521 - 2011-2012 Session | LegiScan
      legiscan.com/gaits/text/664986
      read, "Because this property is believed to be worth less than $700,

      The hard part now for most landlords is how to fill out the bottom paragraph to the tenant that states value is below $700 and their personal property will be disposed of without further notice

      or the property is valued at $700 and will be sold at public auction.

      One of the services my company provides is the initial appraisal and inventory of the personal property up to California Superior Court standards as most of these are legal evictions.

      Hiring in independent third party service provider eliminates potential further action in court from tenants who claim to have had tens of thousands of dollars of priceless articles they had planned to pick up.

      To answer your question because it's part of my regular job;

      Send that 18-notice to the address used for notice on the court papers and a copy to their e-mail.

      On these I usually buy a single first class stamp at the post office and staple the receipt to my file copy as "proof of mailing" in the event we are ever called into to testify.

      It's simple yet complex and keeping accurate records and papering the file is a must.

      Delete
  5. I have been contacted asking for assistance.

    Please call me at 818-583-7384 for consultation.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Had our tenant that was evicted come twice to pick up his stuff. Both times he left without out. We are past the 15-18 days and will now have to sell to the highest bidder. His stuff is probably worth more than $700 but nothing really desirable. 2 fridges, bedroom set, dining room set, piano, washer/dryer, miscellaneous junk. Don't want to have to pay fees other than possibly a commission. Any suggestions? Seems like a huge responsibility for us.

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    Replies
    1. Have you had an appraisal conducted, then sent proper notice to the former tenant that their abandoned property will be disposed of?

      There are a lot of things in this life that as a landlord I didn't want to pay either but if you want a professional you need to pay the appraisal & auction entry fees.

      Uncle Jesse Sez;

      "Billy Boy, there ain't nothing more expensive than a cheap auctioneer."

      Please give me a call at 818-583-7384 to discuss your situation.

      Delete
  7. Our tenants were evicted and a date has been set for them to come retrieve their property. Upon eviction, we became aware the tenants had not only disconnected and removed laundry sink with intention of taking a long with multiple items. But they also broke into a 12 X 12 storage shed and removed our personal property generator, chainsaw, miscellaneous yard equipment. Do we as landlords have any rights regarding this? Thanks Dalton

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  8. Yes you have rights!

    First since they have been evicted you have the right to secure your property.

    Second you have the right to file a police report for theft. This serves two purposes

    1) Criminal prosecution

    2) Recovery under your homeowners insurance because a police report is required.

    Third under your rental agreement there is probably a security deposit that you must account costs of repair for the plumbing then deduct that from security deposit. Any overage an be added to the judicial judgement from the court they were evicted in.

    However there is no "judgement genie" standing on the courthouse steps to insure you will be paid. A judgement will protect you should they get back into a financially stable position, own real estate or try to get credit. You must be paid.

    It's a crappy situation any way you cut it but you must allow the former tenants to reclaim their personal property UNDER YOUR SUPERVISION.

    If the police happen to be there to arrest them for theft that is up to you.

    Good luck

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    1. Another question if I may. Tenants were evicted by the sheriff a week ago last Thursday. Tenant sent couple text regarding retrieval of property on Friday evening. We replied back stating we had to wait till Monday to consult with our attorney. On Monday we responded back stating that tenant could come to get their property tomorrow (Sunday 11/8) @ 8am. We also mailed a notice about date and time on same day. We haven't heard back from tenant. Question is, can they say sorry couldn't make it on Sunday but will be there on Friday for example. ? Or must they come on assigned date and do they have only 1 day to retrieve their property. Thanks Dalton

      Delete
  9. Dalton;

    These are usually a "supervised" 10-day load out on a day and time that is mutually reasonable.

    If you have a helper of someone who was not personally involved in the eviction it might help to diffuse any negative BS coming from the former tenant.

    If they have a lot of stuff and are diligent filling the car(s), truck, trailer, whatever and need multiple trips it might be easier to do 2 days. Whatever works to get them out of there.

    You may want to download and print inspection forms to do a final "walk through" inspection showing anything you plan to charge him for. Getting them to sign a copy of the inspection is a nice cya item.

    The bottom line is they have 18-days from the date you send notice. The property is there to make money being rented not storing the former / evicted tenant's crap keeping you from making money.

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  10. Is it my understanding that as long as we make tenant aware of it, we can charge daily storage fee even if their property is not in storage but still at our rental. Also, if set time to meet at rental for them to retrieve their property is say, 8am. And they don't show and we receive no phone call, what is a reasonable time to wait? Dalton

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  11. Dalton;

    You may charge storage up to the amount of rent since the property can't be rented till their stuff is disposed of.

    Reality check, often the reason people are evicted is because they are broke or close to broke. You can ask anything you want, if they pay great.

    If not let them take their stuff anyways because holding it makes you looks like a "Greedy Landlord" if they use legal aid to drag you back into court.

    We have collected the full amount once, partials a bunch of times and for the most part the people come, take their stuff and leave your property alone so it can start earning rental income again.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Help,,,,
      Our tenants were evicted 2 weeks ago last Thursday. 2 weeks ago today we agreed to meet last Sunday a week ago at 8am so they could start getting their property. They never showed or called. Then 2 days later we got an email saying something came up and they needed to reschedule. So after their pathetic excuse, we rescheduled for yesterday Sunday 11/15 at 8am. After waiting till after 11am we gave up and went home. Again a few hours later yet another email with another excuse full of apologies. Today is exactly 18 days since eviction. We need to get the rental ready by 12-1. When can we say enough is enough? Thanks Dalton

      Delete
  12. Did you send or hand deliver 18-day notice of right to reclaim personal property?

    The claim ck doesn't start ticking until notice is given.

    It must have an inventory , redemption fees (if any) last date to remove.

    If the items are valued more or less than $700. If less notice of trash out if more notice they will be sold at auction.

    This is part of the service we provide to landlords and lenders.

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    1. When the tenant was evicted by the sheriff they were given a 15 day from date of eviction to reclaim their property. 3 days later I believe we sent them a text as well as a notice in the mail. She never responded for almost a full week which was days after set date. We since reschedule again with no luck. But we have not sent any letter with itemized properties. They had a metal working business so majority of their property is just endless stacks of pieces of used metal. As far as furniture. They only have left a microwave, couch and a chest and couple mattresses. That's all.

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    2. if the sheriff did the eviction that is the only notice needed per code of civil procrdures. The notice gives them 15-days but there is conflict wording that states 18-days. NOTE: if sheriff lockout, you do not follow abandoned property procedures.. that is a complete different monster. In this pro tenant state, it would be huthe you to let the $#%@& to get their stuff through that 18-day period.

      Delete
  13. I've recently vacated my apartment but had some garbage that wouldn't fit in my bin. Can my landlord withold a fee from my deposit for that? Is there any laws about garbage left behind?

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    1. My question would be if the apartment was clean and the garbage was in the trash area.

      If it's in the trash area you did what you could and should be entitled to a return of your security deposit.

      If it's in the unit then the landlord will have to pay someone to remove it.

      Delete
  14. I've recently vacated my apartment but had some garbage that wouldn't fit in my bin. Can my landlord withold a fee from my deposit for that? Is there any laws about garbage left behind?

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  15. I've got a problem with my landLord and his people coming into the areas where my possessions are stored on his property, having them pillage through it and throwing it away. Do they have any right to do this? What are my rights? Help. I don't know how to stop them.

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  16. I've got a problem with my landLord and his people coming into the areas where my possessions are stored on his property, having them pillage through it and throwing it away. Do they have any right to do this? What are my rights? Help. I don't know how to stop them.

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    Replies
    1. Seek competent legal advice

      If your stuff is in a leased area designated for you then no they do not have the right.

      What kind of stuff?

      Are you a hoarder storing garbage that only you think is valuable?

      Are there chemicals or toxic items?

      Is the area secure?

      If it's just stuff you have collected and dragged back on bulk trash day then you wont win.

      If you have personal property of value that is stored in an agreed upon area, then you may have a case.

      Seek competent legal advice I am an auctioneer not an attorney

      Delete
    2. I used to own a bicycle shop. 18yrs in business. I was forced to close due to a major injury. It's all of my shop and my personal household items. I live on the property in a motor home, and all my things are stacked next to it. To landlord it looks like garbage, but it's my whole life. All my personal stuff and my business. I have no where to go or put these things. I don't know anyone in the area I live. Can't work and have no resources. .....anyways thank you for your response.

      Delete
    3. I used to own a bicycle shop. 18yrs in business. I was forced to close due to a major injury. It's all of my shop and my personal household items. I live on the property in a motor home, and all my things are stacked next to it. To landlord it looks like garbage, but it's my whole life. All my personal stuff and my business. I have no where to go or put these things. I don't know anyone in the area I live. Can't work and have no resources. .....anyways thank you for your response.

      Delete
    4. Eric:

      If it were me, I would put the landlord on written notice.

      Even if it's "trashy looking junk" as long as there is no hazard and its in your agreement, then it's your stuff.

      Rummaging and taking is criminal but when the police show up they will tell you it's civil and they don't want to get involved.

      Communication is the key, maybe covering it with a staked down tarp that defines your area. Post a Private Property sign.

      If it's a problem my CYA answer is seek competent legal advice.

      Good look to you with this sir.

      Delete
  17. hi I have a question I recently gave my tenant an eviction 3 day notice and he said he would move out by this sunday and ive tried contacting him to see if he is coming back because he left some of his belongings behind but he wont return any of my calls or texts what do I do now since it looks like he hasn't been at the residence since I gave him the eviction notice

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  18. You delivered a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.

    That is asking the tenant to voluntarily move out without your having to hassle or expense of a judicial court eviction or UD Unlawful Detainer.

    If they leave stuff then this would fall under a "Notice of Abandonment" that must be mailed and posted. After 18 days if the value is over 700 you can auction if it's under then trash it out.

    A lot easier and cheaper than an eviction

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  19. Please, please, help... A subtenant moved out 29 days ago and left 9 heavy sealed boxes of books & magazines. He's asked for the remainder of his security deposit and I've asked him to remove his belongings. He literally replies he's too busy with work and school and that he'll have to take public transit to remove items which will take weeks. Of course he refuses to provide a forwarding address or last known address. My question is, can I charge him (from his security deposit) storage fees for the boxes AND a disposal fee to remove boxes since he has not removed them when he moved out 29 days ago? I fail to see how I am obligated to let him get his stuff at his leisure when he gave me 30 days notice and had 30 days to remove all of his belongings? I'd like to add that he did NOT clean his room in the 6 months he was there (I took photos, it took me over 4 hours to clean as it was filthy) and so of course I'm charging him a cleaning fee as well.

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  20. Help my landlord used a fake document to get a writ of possession. It's been 4 days and 12 attempts to contact the landlord and her attorney to schedule a pick up of my belongings. She forwards all my calls and ignores me. The attorney gave me 17 hours notice to get my stuff but when I got to the property nobody was there and the landlord or attorney are now ignoring all my attempts to contact them

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  21. Help my landlord used a fake document to get a writ of possession. It's been 4 days and 12 attempts to contact the landlord and her attorney to schedule a pick up of my belongings. She forwards all my calls and ignores me. The attorney gave me 17 hours notice to get my stuff but when I got to the property nobody was there and the landlord or attorney are now ignoring all my attempts to contact them

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  22. After landlord entering without permission more then one occasion law enforcement was involved as a attempt to educate and warning of the possible charges with future tenants. We were friends but he was stubborn, anyhow I was moving soon so no big deal. But his property manager who has severe social skills and problems with rules set some personal property of mine I left behind the garage out in the rain during a severe weather warning and my stuff is destroyed along with VERY IMPORTANT legal papers and documents concerning current court case dealing with sensitive info and docs as possible evidence in a personal injury case.
    Question- what's the time limit if the personal property was destroyed before possible assumption of abandonment? Or can any one point me in the right direction as in handling. I'm stranded and can use any advice from anyone. Thanks

    Jayrobn42@gmailed

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  23. After landlord entering without permission more then one occasion law enforcement was involved as a attempt to educate and warning of the possible charges with future tenants. We were friends but he was stubborn, anyhow I was moving soon so no big deal. But his property manager who has severe social skills and problems with rules set some personal property of mine I left behind the garage out in the rain during a severe weather warning and my stuff is destroyed along with VERY IMPORTANT legal papers and documents concerning current court case dealing with sensitive info and docs as possible evidence in a personal injury case.
    Question- what's the time limit if the personal property was destroyed before possible assumption of abandonment? Or can any one point me in the right direction as in handling. I'm stranded and can use any advice from anyone. Thanks

    Jayrobn42@gmailed

    ReplyDelete
  24. My Landlord threw out all of my belongings (TV flatscreen, hard drives, couches, offie desk, computer) even sent me an email saying she destroyed it and didn't have to notify me... Can someone refer a good atty?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you get an attorney I need one to please.

      Delete
  25. Have posted a three day notice to quit, as tenant was arrested. Do I need to file for eviction, or does that notice suffice to make them quit within three days.

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    Replies
    1. Proper posting notice of abandonment might be your best solution.

      Again seek competent legal advice

      Delete
  26. To evict a tenant in california, does the landowner need to write a letter of eviction or can they just call to evict someone on the phone?

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  27. You must follow procedures, notices, service, timelines, etc.

    California law does not allow instant eviction and you as a landlord can get into serious trouble by doing it outside of legal procedures. Tenants rights

    If you are unsure how seek competent legal advice. The attorney who operates this website would be an excellent start.

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  28. My tenant was evicted with a Writ of possession 12 days ago. I texted her if she wants to pick up the remaining belongings, she responded no because she had no transportation and no room. Then I texted her if I can dump all of them, she said "yes". Based on this text message, can I dump all her remaining personal property without further notice 18days after the Writ of Possession is served? Is it considered a legal document in court? Her mom did not answer to the text (I texted both of them), since mom was the responsible person in the contract (though she did not live in the property), is the daughter’s text response the only proof that I need in this situation? Is it considered a legal document in court if they may take it to court in the future for dumping all the personal property even though was per her permission? Is text permission from tenant a legal document in court for disposing property (after eviction) without sending a Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property? Please help! Thank you!

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  29. My tenant was evicted by the sheriffs dept 15 days ago. They were given a 30 day notice 5 months ago and waited until the last 3 days to get some of their stuff. Now it's past the 15 days and I am done dealing with these people. They left tons of garbage but also some vehicles and one burnt up boat, one full of trash and one descent one. Their time is up. Can I sell the stuff to recoup my expenses?

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