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What To Do When A Tenant Abandons Property

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Left BehindSan Francisco Bay Area Landlords are often concerned about what to do when a tenant vacates the rental property leaves behind  personal belongings.  Legally, these personal belongings are considered abandoned property.  No matter why the tenant left the rental property, such as an eviction or a voluntary move-out, the landlord cannot simply throw away or give away the personal belongings / abandoned property under most situations.  Before a landlord can take any action with regard to the abandoned property, the landlord must follow certain steps.

First, the landlord must contact the tenant through a written notice, and inform the tenant that the tenant has left abandoned personal property at the rental location.  This notice should describe the items left behind in such a manner that the tenant would be able to recognize the items.  The notice must also state where the abandoned property can be claimed (this is usually the rental location/vacated unit), if the landlord intends to apply a reasonable cost of storage and if so the rate of storage, and the date in which the abandoned property must be claimed by the tenant.

If the landlord has the notice personally delivered then the expiration date must not be less then 15 days after delivery.  If the landlord has the notice sent through mail, then the expiration date must not be less then 18 days after the date of mailing.

If the tenant responds to the notice, then the tenant must comply with the conditions in the notice, and pick up the abandoned property.  At this point, the problem is solved.  However, if the tenant does not respond to the notice, then the landlord must take steps to remove the abandoned personal items.

Before the landlord can remove the abandoned property from the rental unit, the landlord must first determine the total price of the items.  If the total value of the items is less then $700.00 then the landlord may keep, throw away, or give away the items, once the notice has expired.

If the value of all the items is over $700.00 then the landlord must hold a public sale of the items, and sell each item to the highest bidder.  This system is very similar to an auction, and an entire article can be written on just this subject.

To learn more about abandoned property and landlord/tenant issues, contact our office and ask to speak to one of our San Francisco Bay Area Landlord/Tenant Attorneys for a complimentary phone or office consultation.

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