Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

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Old Feb 18th, 2013, 10:07 AM   #1
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Default Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

A tenant in our Ohio duplex told us in January that she would be moving, as she could no longer pay her rent. She had last paid rent for December, and she verbally told my husband that she would be out by February 8th.

On January 31st, her sewer line backed up and she contacted us right away. The sewer & drain company that we have used for years informed us that we would need to have a "clean out" installed for access to clear the line. While in the process of obtaining estimates, we purchased a gallon of liquid drain cleaner that's "100% guaranteed to clear the toughest clogs" and poured it down the drain with the tenant present on February 1st. This is the last time we spoke to her. When we tried to contact her a couple days later to see if it made a difference, her phone had been turned off. I went to her door, and when she wasn't home, I left a note with phone numbers asking her to call us. We never heard from her. We have been there several more times and the note remains on the door with no sign of her coming or going.

Our lease does not have an abandonment clause, but it does state that "you must notify Owners if you plan to be absent from the dwelling for more than 7 days."

We have entered the unit and it appears that most of her personal belongings are still there. At what point is it safe to change the locks and begin disposing of her possessions?
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Old Feb 18th, 2013, 12:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

I wish to inform you that you will require to obtain court order regarding possession of premises and eviction of tenant. In this regard as tenant has kept his things in the premises therefore tenant is having constructive possession of premises and hence eviction order will be required. You can first give eviction notice and if tenant does not vacate then you can file eviction lawsuit.

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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 07:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

You cannot immediately sell those belongings. As a landlord, you have the duty to safeguard a tenant's abandoned belongings for at least 30 days. The value of the property determines exactly what you can do with it if it remains unclaimed. Moreover, if the tenant owes back rent, you can file a lawsuit in court to attempt to recover the rent.
Seek legal assistance before taking action against a tenant.
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 08:53 AM   #4
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Default Re: Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

To prevent your tenant returning and claiming you have illegally evicted her, it is best that you begin the legal process of eviction due to her failing to pay rent since December of 2012.

You are certainly justified in doing this. What you aren't justified in doing is changing the locks and tossing all her possessions at this point in time.

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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 10:09 AM   #5
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Default Re: Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

Did she provide an alternative contact (family member?) when she signed the lease? It's possible something happened to her if she left all her belongings. Sounds odd since she told you she was leaving.
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 12:20 PM   #6
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Default Re: Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

Quote:
Originally Posted by jenijosmom View Post
A tenant in our Ohio duplex told us in January that she would be moving, as she could no longer pay her rent. She had last paid rent for December, and she verbally told my husband that she would be out by February 8th.

On January 31st, her sewer line backed up and she contacted us right away. The sewer & drain company that we have used for years informed us that we would need to have a "clean out" installed for access to clear the line. While in the process of obtaining estimates, we purchased a gallon of liquid drain cleaner that's "100% guaranteed to clear the toughest clogs" and poured it down the drain with the tenant present on February 1st. This is the last time we spoke to her. When we tried to contact her a couple days later to see if it made a difference, her phone had been turned off. I went to her door, and when she wasn't home, I left a note with phone numbers asking her to call us. We never heard from her. We have been there several more times and the note remains on the door with no sign of her coming or going.

Our lease does not have an abandonment clause, but it does state that "you must notify Owners if you plan to be absent from the dwelling for more than 7 days."

We have entered the unit and it appears that most of her personal belongings are still there. At what point is it safe to change the locks and begin disposing of her possessions?
Ohio's laws on abandoned property, any and all I could find, only relate to money -- not abandoned personal property. Landlords take care of this omission by including a clause in their lease for property left behind.

What you can do is post the property that it is "abandoned" and then take her belongings and place them in a storage locker where they will be secure for 30 days or so.

As to the safety and security of your building, you may change the locks when you post.
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Old Feb 20th, 2013, 09:55 PM   #7
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Default Re: Tenant vacated, can't be reached, but left belongings in Ohio

Thank you, everyone, for all of your input. We were hoping to avoid dealing with the court system, but it sounds like that's the best option. We'll definitely be adding an abandonment clause to our lease in the future.
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