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Belongings Left Behind
Your tenant has moved out of the rental and left items behind. This is a real nuisance to the landlord, as you must deal with it. You enlist the help of a couple of buddies, back a truck up to the door, throw the items on and head for a storage unit, where you will sell off what you can, give away some of it and take the rest to the local landfill. WHOA!! HOLD ON A MINUTE!!! It’s not that simple. Each state has different laws and classifications for the disposal of these items. Be sure that you as the landlord know your particular state laws concerning the way you deal with Belongings left behind by the tenant TENANT LANDLORD STATE LAW. Landlords have certain responsibilities when it comes to disposing of a former tenant’s property. Ascertain what is required by your state and stay within the letter of the law.
 You as the landlord must determine if it is “abandoned” property and if it has any value. If it has value, you must notify the tenant at the last known address, of the fact that you have the items, that they are in storage and where, and give them a certain amount of time to retrieve them. Of course they would be required to pay the storage fee. As unfair as this seems, a landlord has a duty to safe guard the property and return it to the tenant if they demand it. It matters little, whether the lease has expired, proper notice to vacate has been given or that the tenant simply stopped paying rent and moved out, as to how the landlord must deal with items left behind.
 New Mexico, for example deals with property left behind in three different situations: The tenant abandons the rental unit, the tenant moves out because the lease has ended or the tenant has been evicted. The tenant has not given the landlord notice of an extended absence has left the rental for a period of seven or more days and is behind in the rent payments, the landlord could consider the rental unit abandoned. In this situation, the landlord may enter the unit and put the tenant’s property in storage. The landlord must notify the tenant that the property is being stored, and the landlord intends to sell or dispose of the same in thirty days. The second instance, the lease has ended and the tenant moves out, leaving property behind. The landlord must hold the property for fourteen days and give the tenant the chance to reclaim it. When a tenant has been evicted by court action, the landlord is only required to hold left behind items for three days. (three days from when the sheriff changes the lock on the door.)
 Under California law, a tenant may, within 18 days of moving out of a rental unit write the landlord and request return of the property left behind. The landlord may charge the tenant for reasonable costs of removal and storage of the property. The landlord must make a written demand on the tenant, for such fees within five days after receiving the tenant’s written demand for return of the property. When the property has apparently been abandoned, a landlord must: write a notice to the tenant, describing the property, stating where the property is being held, giving a deadline after which time the property cannot be reclaimed, stating possible costs of storage that the tenant will be responsible for.
 In Oregon, as in every other, rules are similar, but slightly different. In some states, the landlord may have to actually wait 60 days before disposing of abandoned or left behind property. Some states leave it up to the landlord to determine abandonment. Make sure that you, as the landlord know your states law in this regard. Research the law and follow the book on this issue. You do not want to be sued by a tenant for improperly disposing of property they left behind.

 Hint for Landlords:

  Before moving any property left behind by a tenant, take pictures of the items and the condition of how they were left. Make an inventory of all left behind property and give it your own fair market value, if any. Be sure to note the address of the rental unit and the date, as well as where the property is being stored. It wouldn’t hurt to have an assistant helping you, sign the statement as well as yourself. The important thing is cover your liability as a landlord.