Abandoned Property in a Rental – Landlord Responsibilities

When a tenant moves out of a rental they are expected to leave the rental in the same condition as when they moved in. This includes cleaning the rental as well as removing any and all property out of the unit. There are times when a tenant, for one reason or another, will leave their property behind when moving out of a rental unit, creating a situation in which the landlord must take responsibility for the abandoned property by following a few state laws that address this particular situation.

Initial Inspection
When a tenant is planning to move out of an apartment, a good idea is to schedule an initial inspection with the landlord. The landlord and the tenant are then able to walk through the rental in order to determine what, if anything, needs to be repaired so the tenant can receive their rental deposit back.

Abandoned Property
Property is considered to be abandoned when the tenancy is over and the tenant has moved out of the rental unit. If the tenant has indeed left any of their property behind, the landlord is required to contact the owner of the property so that they have a chance to retrieve the property. The landlord must send written notice not only to the tenant but also any other persons they deem to be responsible for the property.

Written Notice. California law requires a landlord to send a written notice (hand delivered or mailed to the abandoned property owners last known address) that describes the property left behind as well as the place that the property can be retrieved. Secondly, a statement must be included informing the owner of the property that they may be charged reasonable storage fees before being able to claim their property. Thirdly, a date by which the property must be picked up is given, giving the owner a minimum of 15 days in which to pick up their property.

Along with the above information, the written notice must also include a reasonable description of what will happen to the property if it is not claimed. If the property is estimated to have a value of at least $300, the landlord must also inform the owner of the property that if they fail to pick up their property it will be sold at a public action.

Storing the Abandoned Property. The landlord is required to store the abandoned property on the vacated property or can be stored in a place considered to be safe until either the landlord releases the property to the tenant/rightful owner or is put up for sale at a public auction. The landlord is able to charge a fair rental value of the space that they are choosing to store the item in. The landlord is expected to take reasonable care when it comes to storing the abandoned property.

Great Idea
If a tenant is not able to take all of their property with them when they move out, a great idea is to call one of the many donation companies that will come pick up the items for free.