After someone vacates your property or is evicted, you may yourself having to deal with the tenant’s abandoned property. While it might seem like common sense to simply dispose of the items, you should proceed with caution. Below, Rogers & Rogers, Esq. explains how and when you can remove a tenant’s property after eviction.
Don’t Enter the Property Unless the Tenant Has Vacated or Has an Eviction Order
Under New York landlord-tenant laws, you cannot enter a property and remove a tenant’s personal property unless they have vacated the property or you have had the Marshal complete the eviction. If you attempt to force a tenant out by removing his or her personal items, you might complicate the eviction — and face both civil and criminal cases.
Handling a Tenant’s Abandoned Property
Sometimes tenants leave behind a wide variety of items, from garbage to furniture, clothing, and valuables. If it’s clear that the items are trash, it’s okay to throw them out. You don’t need to keep bags of rotting food, newspapers, and empty cardboard boxes. You also can deduct the cost of cleaning up and repairing the property from the tenant’s security deposit. Keep your receipts for cleaning services etc.
However, it’s more complicated when a tenant leaves behind valuable items like furniture, clothing, electronics, a bicycle, or another vehicle. First, you must understand your community’s legal standards. If you violate certain procedures, you might face a civil lawsuit for improperly removing a tenant’s property.
While New York State doesn’t have a statute addressing a tenant’s abandoned property, there is case law that you should follow. If you need help understanding the exact laws that apply in your city or state, contact Rogers & Rogers, Esq. for more information.
Guidelines for Dealing With a Tenant’s Property After Eviction
However, there are some general guidelines you should always follow:
- Mention abandoned property in the lease: Document your policies about abandoned property in your rental agreement. This helps educate your tenants and will serve as valuable evidence during a dispute.
- Inventory the abandoned property: You should carefully inventory the items your tenant left behind and their condition. Consider taking photographs of the residence and the tenant’s personal property as part of this process. The Marshal will also do an inventory during the eviction.
- Store valuable property for a period of time: While you can clean out the unit, you shouldn’t immediately throw away your tenant’s valuable property. Instead, you should store it in a reasonably secure location for a period of time (typically about 30 days in NYC).
- Send a written notice with clear deadlines: Notify your former tenant that they must claim their property or it will be considered legally abandoned. You should also emphasize the 30-day or other deadlines that apply.
- Order to Show Cause after eviction: If your tenant obtains an OSC after the eviction to enable him or her to remove their belongings you must not throw anything out until after the Judge rules on the motion. Your attorney should ask the Judge to include language to the effect that belongings remaining after a certain date may be deemed abandoned. At Rogers & Rogers this language is always sought in post eviction orders.
- Demand reimbursement of your storage expenses: You typically can bill your former tenant for the reasonable, market value costs of storing his or her property and take that from the security deposit, if any.
Once the deadlines expire, you can dispose of the tenant’s property unless there is an Order to Show Cause Staying such action.
Special Rules for Vehicles and Animals
Unlike a stereo or loveseat, you simply can’t take a tenant’s abandoned vehicle. Instead, contact your local law enforcement authorities. Sometimes, the police will agree to ticket and tow away the vehicle. If the authorities will not step in, contact a lawyer at Rogers & Rogers, Esq. for help removing the tenant’s property.
If your former tenant abandons a domestic animal, he or she might face animal cruelty charges. Do not ignore the animal or let it suffer. Instead, contact your local humane society for assistance. A humane society or animal shelter can help you document the situation and can help you ensure the animal’s safety.
Learn More About Removing a Tenant’s Property After Eviction
New York landlord-tenant law is complex. If you need advice about removing a tenant’s property, contact Rogers & Rogers, Esq. for a consultation. We offer our clients comprehensive legal services, from drafting and revising leases to assisting with evictions and property removal procedures. Call us today.