Sometimes, you may be faced with tenants who leave their furniture or other property in or around the unit. This can happen for several reasons. Sometimes it happens because the tenant doesn’t want to haul anything away, and they’ve decided to abandon the property. Even when you know this is the case, you can’t simply throw everything out. There is a process you must follow for this or any other situation where you are dealing with items left by a tenant.
If you throw away the property of a tenant without following the proper steps, the tenant may be able to claim significant damages from you—even up to 2x the cost of any of the items that were discarded. You also lose the right to reclaim any money from the tenant to cover your losses storing the leftover items or having them hauled away.
Take control of the property
Don’t attempt to do anything with the personal property of your tenant until they have left, returned their keys and passed the unit back to you. Now that you have free access to the unit again, you can begin making a list of any items that were abandoned by the tenant. You still can’t dispose of any of it yet.
Send a written notice documenting the abandoned items
You must give the previous tenant prior notice that you have property that you believe to be abandoned. This is known as an Abandoned Property Notice in NJ. Make sure you list all the items that you documented in your review of the property. This notice allows you to legally begin a 30-day countdown, after which you can discard most types of property. This process applies to every type of property other than mobile homes.
Document any storage & hauling costs
Landlords are required to safely store any items that have been collected. If any items need to be removed from the property and stored, you are allowed to collect the fees you paid for these services from the tenant. They are responsible for commercial storage and moving fees, in addition to any other costs incidental to storing their property.
Sell or destroy any property and transfer any balance
Most abandoned property has little value, and it can quickly cost more to store or sell it than it would cost to simply destroy it. Landlords are permitted to destroy worthless property, but they are required to sell valuable property in sanctioned public and private sales. Any proceeds of those sales, after the costs of storage have been deducted, must be returned to the tenant. If the tenant cannot be contacted, the money must be stored with the Superior Court.
Get help with tenant property questions
Our lawyers can assist you with questions about when property can be considered abandoned. Learn more by scheduling a consultation. Make sure you have the answers before you take the next step.