If you are asking yourself this question, there are generally two main issues that you need to be concerned with: (1) Has the tenant surrendered the rental unit (i.e. vacated and has no need to come back to clean, pick up personal property, or for any other reason); and (2) Has the tenant abandoned any remaining personal property. In this post we will discuss the second issue: Has the tenant abandoned their personal property?
If you have not yet read PART 1 on the Surrender of the Rental Unit, you will want to read that post first.
Abandoned Personal Property:
Ideally the owner will have language in the rental agreement (or the rules in case of Section 8 site-based housing) that states that the landlord will not store any personal property that has been abandoned by the tenant. If such language is included in the rental agreement, and it has been determined that the tenant has surrendered the rental unit, then you can immediately dispose of the abandoned personal property (unless it is a medical device or prescription or a titled vehicle, which have additional requirements).
Even if the rental unit has been surrendered and the tenant has returned the keys, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to the tenant and confirm that any personal property that was left behind has been abandoned and may be disposed of immediately. While not legally required, it doesn’t take much time for the landlord to make this call and is the safest thing to do. If possible, I try to get the tenant to put in writing that they have abandoned any remaining personal property, or if they tell me this on the phone, I follow it up with a confirming letter to the tenant along with a memo to the file confirming the attempts I made to contact the tenant and/or the details of the conversation I had with the tenant.
If, for some reason, the language does not have the above-noted language in the rental agreement regarding not storing any personal property left behind by the tenant, then the landlord is using an outdated rental agreement, and will be required to follow the “old law” which requires him/her to send the tenant written notice summarizing the personal property left behind and advising the tenant that the landlord intends to dispose of the abandoned personal property after 30 days.
It should be noted, that none of the above is necessary if you go through with the eviction process, file the writ with the Sheriff, and have the tenant’s personal property removed by a moving company accompanying the Sheriff.