tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

This is a discussion on tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; My tenant gave notice and moved out in Jan. He left behind 2 refrigerators and a china cabinet. The refrigerators ...

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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 06:06 PM   #1
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Default tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

My tenant gave notice and moved out in Jan. He left behind 2 refrigerators and a china cabinet. The refrigerators were both at least 10 years old and the china cabinet was a piece of garbage, made of pressed board and formica. One of the refrigerator was missing some interior parts and the china cabinet was missing doors so I threw both of these items out and kept the other fridge. Today, (2 1/2 months later) my previous tenant left me a voice mail; he "wants to get stuff". Was I obligated to hold on to his items? Am I going to get stuck buying him a new fridge and cabinet?
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 06:19 PM   #2
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

No......First of all you would have had to store it 2 1/2 months, this is way past your legal responsibility of time to store. If you had stored it you would be intitled to reasonable storage fees. Let them take you to small claims..........you'll win!!
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 09:43 PM   #3
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

If he returned the keys to you, he's **** out of luck.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:05 AM   #4
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

Please list your state. Both of these answers could be wrong. Some states require that you store any items left behind for 30 days, notify the tenant in writing to come get these items, and allow you to charge for storage. Even if the tenant voluntarily returned the keys, you may still have to store the abandoned belongings for a number of days. If you did not notify the tenant in writing to come get the items, depending on your state law, you could be held liable for these things. It is always best to inventory and photograph the items you are disposing of so you can prove they were junk. The tenant will be sure to claim they were brand new or antiques! Please list your state.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

Massachusetts.

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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:48 AM   #6
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

Courts also keep in mind personal responsibility. This exists in every person walking on earth and tenants are no exception. The tenant had plenty of time and opportunity to take his belongings, and courts usually favor the landlord when tenants willfully leave belongings behind, regardless of whether they followed the red letter of the law regarding notice, storing, etc.

Once the keys are returned, that is more than strong evidence that the tenant has moved on and is done using the unit.

You will prevail in court should it come to that. You won't end up buying this shmuck new items.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 09:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

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Courts also keep in mind personal responsibility. This exists in every person walking on earth and tenants are no exception. The tenant had plenty of time and opportunity to take his belongings, and courts usually favor the landlord when tenants willfully leave belongings behind, regardless of whether they followed the red letter of the law regarding notice, storing, etc.

Once the keys are returned, that is more than strong evidence that the tenant has moved on and is done using the unit.

You will prevail in court should it come to that. You won't end up buying this shmuck new items.
This is NOT true in all states. Some states specifically say that any belongings left behind, even when the tenant surrenders the unit, must be stored. The tenant must be notified in WRITING to come get the belongings. Alaska has such a law, as do several other states. (VAS 34.03.260. Disposition of Abandoned Property.
(a) Except as otherwise agreed, if, upon termination of a tenancy including but not limited to a termination after expiration of a lease or by surrender or abandonment of the premises, a tenant has left personal property upon the premises, and the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned this personal property, the landlord may (1) give notice to the tenant demanding that the property be removed within the dates set out in the notice but not less than 15 days after delivery or mailing of the notice, and that if the property is not removed within the time specified, the property may be sold; if the property is not removed within the time specified in the notice, the landlord may sell the property at a public sale; the landlord may dispose of perishable commodities in any manner the landlord considers fit; (2) if the tenant has left personal property that is reasonably determined by the landlord to be valueless or of such little value that the cost of storing and conducting a public sale would probably exceed the amount that would be realized from the sale, the landlord may notify the tenant that the property be removed within the date specified in the notice but not less than 15 days after delivery or mailing of the notice, and that if the property is not removed within the time specified, the landlord intends to destroy or otherwise dispose of the property; if the property is not removed within the time specified in the notice, the landlord may destroy or otherwise dispose of the property; in the notice, the landlord shall indicate an election to sell certain items of the tenant's personal property at public sale and to destroy or otherwise dispose of the remainder.
(b) After notice as provided in (a) of this section, the landlord shall store all personal property of the tenant in a place of safekeeping and shall exercise reasonable care of the property, but is not responsible to the tenant for loss not caused by the landlord's deliberate or negligent act. The landlord may elect to store the property on the premises previously demised, in which event the storage cost may not exceed the fair rental value of the premises. If the tenant's property is removed to a commercial storage company, the storage cost shall include the actual charge for the storage and removal from the premises to the place of storage.... )

In some states, if you have their belongings and fail to notify the tenant to come get them, you remain responsible for them. If you toss them without notification, you can be liable for the value of those possessions (or what the tenant claims the value is.) Do not think that the onus is upon the tenant to come claim them if you do not send them notification to come get these things in all states.

That said, Mass. does not have such a law. But it is posted to prevent other readers from thinking that they can simply dispose of the belongings because the tenant has returned possession of the unit.
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Old Sep 19th, 2014, 04:46 AM   #8
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

Wow I did not know that this simple issue could turn out to be so complicated. Could you share what happened after the previous tenant came back for his “things”? However, from my personal opinion you did indeed do the right thing which was to throw the two items out because after leaving, the unit is yours and as the owner you have the lawful right to do anything up to your convenience. It is absurd that he treated your unit like a self storage and nonchalantly came back 2.5 months later and still expect you to still have those items intact.
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Old Sep 19th, 2014, 06:54 AM   #9
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

Generally, once the landlord believes that the tenant has abandoned the property, he must notify the tenant that the items has been left on the premises. Landlord has to store the items in a safe place. He must also mention that reasonable storage costs may be charged before the items are returned. In the notice the landlord must describe the details of the items left behind and state that the items must be claimed within a fixed time, or else he will sell the items at public auction. If the tenant takes no action, after the time has passed, the landlord may then sell the items. The landlord can deduct the costs associated with selling, storing, etc. the items, then any remaining proceeds should be returned to the tenant. Consult an attorney for more information.
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 06:08 AM   #10
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Default Re: tenant moved out and left a couple of items behind

You should have sent a formal notice to the tenant about the things left behind. It is possible that the tenant sues you on this ground. It suggest you should consult an experienced attorney.
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