When your tenant leaves their stuff behind, it can be tempting to say, “Yay, free stuff!”, but that’s not always the case. In some situations, you won’t be able to dispose of – or sell – the stuff your tenant has left behind. In this article, we’ll walk you through what to do if you ever have to deal with abandoned stuff in your South Florida rental property.
What is tenant property?
Wait! Before you figure out what to do with your tenant’s things, you need to determine if the stuff is theirs at all. Tenant property is your tenant’s personal possessions – in other words, it’s property that they own, or that they placed into the rental property on the day they moved in. Examples of property are bikes, books, cabinets, cupboards – basically anything that you didn’t put in the rental.
According to the lease agreement, when it’s time for the tenant to move out, they have to leave the property in its original condition. That translates to “the tenant has to get rid of all of their things”.
That’s precisely why it’s important to inspect the whole property pre- and post-occupancy. That way, you don’t end up with property that you don’t want, such as creaky chairs, smelly sofas, and more. Tenants should also get rid of their things, as you will need to rerent the property – if they still have their stuff in it, you’ll end up wasting your time trying to figure out what to do with their things.
Separating your stuff from your tenant’s stuff shouldn’t be a complicated process, but if you’re confused, you can count on a property management firm for help. They should have an overview of the things that were on your property during move-in day.
What should you do when a tenant leaves their stuff behind?
Here’s what to do in the event a tenant leaves their personal possessions in your rental property:
#1 Find out why the tenant left
It’s important to find out why the tenant left in the first place. This will determine what you can do with their property. For instance, if the tenant left due to the end of their lease, you’re free to dispose of their stuff. However, if the tenant was evicted, you have to obligation to guarantee that the tenant gets their belongings. Similarly, if the tenant left without warning, you won’t be able to get rid of their stuff if you don’t try to get in touch with them.
It can be advantageous to have a property management agent by your side if you don’t know what to do with left-behind belongings. Find a South Florida property management company today to ensure you don’t break any laws about left-behind stuff.
#2 Read the Lease Agreement
Before you worry about what to do with your tenant’s belongings, be sure to review the lease agreement. It may contain a clause that addresses this certain situation.
What you can do depends on what’s stated in your lease agreement. If your lease states that you can sell your tenant’s stuff, go ahead – as long as your tenant signed the lease, you can do whatever is contained in it (as long as it’s lawful, of course).
Consult a property management company with an in-house lawyer to create a fool-proof contract. The contract should contain a clause regarding what to do with your tenant’s things. In general, the lease agreement should:
- State that the tenant should remove their stuff when it’s time to move out.
- State that the tenant will cover the costs to store and dispose of their stuff (if they leave their stuff behind).
- Specify the items that can be disposed of.
#3 Store the Property Safely
You don’t need to keep their property in the rental property, particularly if you’re anticipating a new tenant any time soon. However, you do need to store the property in a safe place, such as a storage unit or a storage shed. You can store their things in your own garage, as well. What’s important is that their stuff is safe when they come to collect it.
If you have to spend to store their stuff, you can ask your tenant to cover the costs once they’ve collected it. Be sure to keep receipts so you can be reimbursed so your tenant can’t claim that you overcharged them.
#4 Get in Touch With the Tenant
In some states, you can’t dispose of your tenant’s stuff if you haven’t attempted to contact them ever since they left. That’s why you may be obligated to get in touch with your tenant to tell them to get their belongings.
Ideally, your notice to your tenant should include:
- List of left-behind stuff (important: do not open cupboards, cabinets, etc. that were locked, or else you’ll be in trouble with the law).
- Location of where their stuff will be stored for now
- Date/deadline when the tenant has to get their things from storage
A property management company can help you draft this notice and ensure that it abides by local laws. Keep in mind that if you do not try to contact your tenant, you can’t dispose of their stuff, so you can’t skip this step.
#5 Give the Tenant Time to Get Their Things
If the tenant claims their stuff, fantastic! Coordinate with your tenant and agree on when they can collect their things. Remember to be reasonable (i.e. don’t tell them to collect their things in the middle of the night) and to give them enough time to do so.
However, if the tenant does not contact you to retrieve their belongings (either they failed to do so, didn’t respond to you, or simply didn’t want their stuff anymore), you are free to sell their property. Alternatively, you can also donate it, use it to furnish the property for future tenants, or throw it away.
The Best Way to Avoid Abandoned Property? Screen Your Tenants
Don’t want to deal with abandoned belongings? Be sure to screen your tenants strictly. With the help of a property management company, you can ensure that your tenants will abide by the terms of their lease agreement at all times.