Q:  I served my residential tenant with a three day notice to pay rent or quit and he called me during the 3 Day Notice period to tell me he moved and I could take back possession of the property. He left the keys on the counter and he left some of his stuff behind. What do I do with the stuff he left?
Since the tenant gave you possession of the property, you may consider the items abandoned. You must serve a notice of right to reclaim abandoned property itemizing the personal property left by the tenant and keep the items for at least 15 days if personally served (18 days if mailed). After the notice expires, you must determine the value of the property, which dictates the method of disposal. If the property is worth less than $700, you can dispose of it however you choose.  However, if the property is valued at over $700, you must sell the property at a public auction. The procedures to sell the property at public auction are complicated and you should consult with an attorney prior to such auction.

Q:  My tenant gave me back possession of the apartment but left personal property in the unit. I served my tenant with a notice of right to reclaim abandoned property. I want to start making repairs to the apartment. Can I move my tenant’s personal property that he left behind while I wait for the notice to expire?
Yes, you may move the tenant’s personal property to a dry and secure location, such as a storage unit or garage on the property. You may also move the personal property into an off-site storage area.  If these options are unavailable to you, then you may simply leave the property inside the unit and keep the unit secured until you dispose of the property.

Q:  I have not heard from my residential tenant in over a month, have not received rent, and I think he abandoned the property. I posted a proper 24 hours notice to see if the property was abandoned, but he left a TV, a sofa, clothing, and other miscellaneous personal items. I still think the property is abandoned. Do I need to serve a notice before taking possession of the property?
Yes, you may serve a notice of belief of abandonment. You may serve this notice if the tenant has not given you back possession of the property, you reasonably believe the property is abandoned, and the tenant has not paid rent for rent for at least 14 days. If the tenant does not claim a right to the property within 15 days (if personally served) and 18 days (if mailed), then you may take back possession of the property. At the time you serve the notice of belief of abandonment, you may consider serving a notice of right to reclaim abandoned property, which includes the personal property left at the unit. However, you should consult with counsel prior to serving these notices.

Q:  I filed an unlawful detainer against my tenants and the Sheriff came and locked them out of the property. Do I need to give my tenants notice of right to reclaim abandoned property?
No, when you go through the court eviction process and the Sheriff conducts a lockout, you are not required to give the tenant or the owner of any property left behind any additional notice. However, you are required to wait 15 days after you receive possession to dispose of the property.  During the 15 days, you must provide your tenants with reasonable access to collect their personal property. You may also charge reasonable storage fees, but cannot condition return of the property on payment of outstanding rent. After the 15 days expire, you may dispose of the property. Again, the manner you use to dispose of the property will depend on the value of the items. 

Q: How can I dispose of abandoned property worth less than $700 after I wait the appropriate 15 or 18 day time periods?
If the total value of the abandoned property is less than $700, you may keep, donate, throw away, or sell the property.  You should also take an inventory and/or pictures of the items that your tenant left at the premises to keep in your tenant file. 

Q: What is a public sale and what do I do with the proceeds?
If the property left behind after the appropriate 15 or 18 day period is valued at more than $700, then you must sell it at a public sale. A public sale could be in a newspaper, online, or a garage sale. You must publish notice of this sale in a local newspaper at least once a week for two consecutive weeks prior to the sale and describe each item for sale.

After the sale, you may deduct the costs of storage, advertising and conducting the sale from the proceeds.  Any remaining balance must be paid to the county treasurer.  The former tenant or owner of the property then has one year to go to the county treasurer to collect the money.

 

Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Associates and The Landlords’ Legal Center, has been doing evictions for over 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email info@simonelawfirm.com.