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2007-11-16 13:17:00

Back to Basics: Abandoned Personal Property

Tenants frequently leave personal property behind when they move out. It may be as simple as a box of trash or as complex as a house full of belongings. The first thing you must do is determine if the property is worth less or more than $300. If you are unsure about the value, consider asking a second-hand dealer to give you an estimate.

If There Was a Lockout Conducted by a Sheriff

Step One:  Keep the property in a reasonably safe place for f15 calendar days beginning the day after the lockout by the sheriff. If it is impractical to move the property from the unit, you can store it there, possibly charging the daily prorated value of the unit, or a portion of it, as your storage cost.

Step Two:  The former tenant has a right to collect the property during the 15 days following the lockout. You must allow the tenant reasonable access, but you can require that the tenant pay reasonable storage costs as a condition of returning the property to him. You cannot insist that any past due rent be paid in order to get the property back.

Step Three:  If the former tenant does not contact you about the personal property, you may dispose of the property any way you see fit, unless the value of the property exceeds $300.

Step Four:  If the value of the property is at least $300, a public auction is necessary. Before the auction, you must publish a notice of the sale describing the abandoned property once per week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation. The sale must be held at least five days after the last notice was published in the newspaper.

Step Five: You may want to employ the services of a professional auctioneer who is experienced with this type of sale. The sale proceeds can be used only to reimburse you for the storage and selling costs. The balance must be given to the county treasurer's office within 30 days from the date of the sale.


If tThere Was No Lockout

You must mail a "Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Personal Property" to the last known address of the former tenant. Keep the property reasonably safe for 18 days from the date of the mailing. Follow Step 2 if the former resident comes to retrieve the property. If you do not hear from the former tenant during the notice period, you may dispose of the property as described in Steps 3 - 5.

(Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. Before acting be sure to receive legal advice from our office. If you have questions about this article, please contact Ted Kimball at 800-338-6039. For past articles on other related topics, and a list of our offices, please consult the resource library section of this web site.)

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