California requires landlords to follow rules when disposing abandoned property left by tenant. In particular, California law has three different ways a landlord can remove and get rid of a tenant’s personal property. The proper procedure the landlord follows will depend on the situation. Read on to learn more about what to do with property left by tenants.

Abandoned property is personal property left by an owner who has intentionally relinquished all rights to its control.

Reason Property Considered Abandoned

First, a landlord will need to decide how and why the property left by tenant is considered abandoned. Typically, a landlord may consider property abandoned under one of the following circumstances:

  1. The tenant requested for his/her property to be returned.
  2. The tenant abandoned the rental property.
  3. The tenant’s personal property was lost and the owner is unknown.

Determining which procedure to follow above will depend on specific facts.

“A People’s Choice helped us prepare the necessary legal paperwork to allow us to get rid of everything the tenants left. I don’t know how I could have done it properly without their help.” F. Horowitz
“We had the worst tenants possible. Not only did we have to sue them to get them out, they left a lot of their stuff after the eviction lawsuit when the Sheriff locked them out.” F. Horowitz

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When Tenant Requests Return of Personal Property

A tenant can write their landlord and ask for his/her personal property to be returned within 18 days after moving out. The tenant’s written request must include a detailed description of the property. Furthermore, the landlord can charge the tenant reasonable expenses in returning the abandoned property left by tenant. Under California law, the landlord is required to return the tenant’s personal possessions within 3 days of receiving the tenant’s request.

Tenant’s Abandonment of Rental Property

California landlords must provide tenants with notice about the removal and/or disposal of abandoned property left by tenant after vacating the rental unit. Grounds for removing abandoned property left by tenant from a rental unit are outlined in California Civil Code.  California Civil Code section 1951.3 allows landlords to enter their rental property upon the tenant’s abandonment.

Under certain conditions, the landlord can make a reasonable assumption that the tenant has abandoned the premises. This includes the landlord not receiving the tenant’s rent or a response from him/her in regards to an intention to continue the current leasehold, the spoiling of food in the tenant’s refrigerator, and the removal of personal property from the premises such as furniture, kitchen appliances, and clothing garments. Keep in mind, the landlord should document his/her efforts in determining how he/she deemed the property was abandoned by the tenant.

In order to go ahead on the assumption the tenant abandoned the property, the landlord should mail a written notice of belief of rental abandonment to the tenant’s last known address. The same notice must be posted on the dwelling’s front door. Furthermore, the landlord should also contact the tenant’s home and cell phone. Finally, if the landlord does not receive a response from the tenant within 18 days of mailing the notice, the landlord can take legal steps to reclaim the rental unit.

If the abandoned property left by tenant is valued at less than $300, the landlord can keep it. On the other hand, if the abandoned property left by tenant is reasonably believed to be worth more than $300, the property must be sold at public auction. Lastly, once the property is sold, the landlord can deduct costs of storage, advertising the sale, and conducting the sale from its proceeds.

Lost Property and Unknown Owner

If property is lost and the owner is unknown, the landlord must turn it over to the police if it is reasonably valued to be worth more than $100. The law enforcement agency will make reasonable attempts to find the property owner.

Contact A People’s Choice for more help with preparing the necessary legal notices for property left by tenant.

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