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What to Do When Tenants Leave Their Belongings Behind

There will be times when you find yourself dealing with a tenant's abandoned personal belongings after he/she has vacated the property voluntarily or by eviction. You're probably wondering what you would do with the stuff your tenant has left behind. 

If you're faced with this situation, read this guide to know your responsibilities. 

On this topic, several questions arise:

1. What is the first thing you should do if you believe that your former tenant has left his/her belongings behind?

2. How do you deliver the legal notice to the tenant?

3. Can you be held liable as a landlord if the tenant's property gets lost, stolen, or destroyed while it is still in storage?

4. When is the tenant's storage deadline date?

5. How do you conduct a public sale?

Let's talk about the first of these 5 questions. What is the first thing you should do if you believe that your former tenant has left his/her belongings behind?

In this situation, you need to provide your tenant or someone else who lived in the rental unit a legal notice. A legal notice is what the California Civil Code 1984 requires. 

This module provides a downloadable legal notice which existing Landlord Prep students can access. Make sure to fill out this template completely.

Here are the details that the written notice should contain:

  • An explanation that the tenant has left behind his/her property.
  • A list of the things that the tenant has left. Note that there is no need for you to itemize his/her stuff. For example, you can simply write down "assorted clothing" instead of stating the number of shirts, socks, etc.
  • The estimated value of the tenant's belongings.
  • If the tenant can claim his/her property within 2 days after the rental unit was vacated, you can decrease the storage costs.  
  • If the worth of the property is below $700, you can keep it, sell it, or destroy it if the tenant fails to reclaim it before the storage deadline date. 
  • If the property is worth more than $700, it will be sold at a public sale. The storage and advertising costs will be deducted from the sale and the remaining money will be given to the county. 
  • The tenant can claim the money from the county one year after the country receives the money. 

For the rest of this lesson, existing Landlord Prep students should log-in to the module entitled Ending a Lease - Abandoned Property.

Not a member yet? Join the Landlord Prep: Video E-Course and How-To Tutorials so you can access this section, download the legal notice, and get the complete DIY landlording course. This will help you stay confident and knowledgeable as a landlord.