Abandonment occurs when a tenant has fallen behind in rent and has clearly indicated by words or actions an intention to not continue living in the rental.
Abandoned Rental Procedure
When a rental has been abandoned, the landlord may enter the unit and remove any abandoned property. The property must be stored in a reasonably secure place. A notice must be mailed to the tenant saying where the property is being stored, and when it will be sold. If the landlord does not have a new address for the tenant, the notice should be mailed to the rental address, so it can be forwarded by the post office.
The landlord may use any money raised through the sale of the tenant's abandoned property to cover money owed to the landlord, such as back rent and the cost of storing and selling the goods. If there is any money left over, then the landlord must keep it for the tenant for one year. If not claimed within that time, it belongs to the landlord.
How long the landlord must wait before selling abandoned property depends on the value of the goods:
- If the total value of the property is less than $50, the landlord must mail a notice of the sale to the tenant and then wait seven days.
- Family pictures, keepsakes, and personal papers cannot be sold until 45 days after the landlord mails the notice of abandonment.
- If the total value of the property is more than $50, the landlord must mail a notice of sale to the tenant and then wait 45 days.
If a landlord takes a tenant's property and a court later determines the property was not actually abandoned, the landlord can be ordered to compensate the tenant for loss of the property, as well as court and attorney costs.
Within 14 days of learning of an abandonment, the landlord is responsible for either returning a tenant's deposit or providing a statement explaining the deposit is being kept.