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Your Guide to Handling an Abandoned Property by Your Tenant

When a tenant moves out, they may have left behind items that have value, such as bicycles, electronics, clothes, or furniture. You cannot simply discard these items; instead, you must follow the rules for abandoned personal property. 

Depending on the laws in your area, you may need to notify the tenant and hold the items for a set period. During this time, the tenant may come back and claim their belongings, or you may be able to sell or donate them. 

Without a Written Agreement

If you’re sure the dwelling has been left deserted and your rental agreement does not include the issue, it’s usually safe to take the following steps: document the home’s contents, take photos, carefully store it away, and provide a thorough notice to the tenant.

With a Written Agreement

If the tenant has not complied with their rental agreement and you have provided them with adequate notice, you may dispose of their possessions. Make sure you have taken all necessary steps to ensure that the tenant has had enough time to collect their items before deciding to discard them:

  • Giving the occupant of a property a clear warning that the property will be put up for sale at a specific date and location
  • Making a public announcement that the sale is happening, such as through placing an ad in a local newspaper and informing the public of the sale through a publicly-visible sign

If the tenant’s security deposit didn’t cover the amount they owe you for unpaid rent, damages to the property, or reasonable storage costs, then you can deduct the difference from the sale proceeds. Make sure to document how you used the money. It’s a good idea to keep the remaining funds in a secure place for the tenant for at least 12 months before you use it yourself.

Tenants Leaving Trash Behind 

Most tenants are respectful and responsible and follow the rules. Occasionally, however, some don’t pay their rent on time, create disturbances, or even leave the property without notice and leaving their belongings behind. These can be difficult situations to deal with, but with the proper help and resources, landlords can handle them effectively.

When a tenant moves out, it’s important to remember that you have specific legal responsibilities concerning any items that may have been left behind. After all, you don’t want to be liable for any items you didn’t know about. The key is to ensure that you take the proper steps to identify and dispose of any abandoned property. Once you have taken the necessary steps to determine what belongs to the tenant and what belongs to you, you can begin to clear the unit out, so a new tenant can move in.

Potential Legal Consequences

It is essential to research the laws in your area regarding renting property, as they can vary depending on where you live. It is best to contact the relevant authorities in your area, such as the tenancy branch, or speak to a lawyer to find out what your specific legal responsibilities are.

Different rules apply depending on how a tenant’s lease ends. If the tenant has been evicted, the rules may be more strict. However, if the tenant moves out on their own accord when the lease ends, there is more flexibility in how their items are handled.

If a tenant has left behind large amounts of trash and debris in their rental unit, you can dispose of the garbage without consulting the tenant. In many locations, whatever is fixed can be considered part of the property. You have the option to keep those items or discard them.


Abandoned property by a tenant is an issue that landlords must address following a tenancy agreement. Landlords must take steps to properly dispose of the abandoned property, as they may be held liable for their storage and disposal. Depending on the state, landlords may be able to charge the tenant for the disposal costs, provided they follow the laws and regulations of their state. 

Moreover, landlords should be aware of laws that may entitle tenants to reclaim their property even after the tenancy agreement. In the end, landlords must consider all the legal implications of dealing with abandoned property, as it can be a complex and confusing process.

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