Q:  I served my residential tenant with a 60-day notice to quit with cause and he called me during the notice period to tell me he moved out and I could take back possession of the property. He left the keys in the mailbox and he left a significant amount of his stuff behind. What do I do with the stuff he left?

A: 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 and 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 sale. You should consult with an attorney prior to selling abandoned property at a public sale.

 

Q: My tenant moved out and left my apartment a mess! There are a lot of used clothes and furniture left behind. How do I determine the value of the abandoned items?

A: The law does not detail how you are to calculate the value of the abandoned personal property. A good rule of thumb would be to use the estimated price of the item if sold at goodwill or the salvation army. Make sure you photograph all the items so you have proof of the condition they were left in. 

Q:  I want to get my unit rented to a new tenant as soon as possible. Can I move my tenant’s personal property that he left behind while I wait for the notice of belief of abandonment to expire?  

A: 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: How can I dispose of abandoned property worth less than $700 after I wait the appropriate 15 or 18-day time periods?  

A: If the total value of the abandoned property is less than $700, you may keep, donate, throw away, or sell the personal 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?

A: If the personal property left behind after the appropriate 15 or 18 day notice period has expired 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.

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-hour 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?

A: Yes, serving a notice of abandonment is appropriate when 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 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 should consider also serving a notice of right to reclaim abandoned property, which lists the personal property left at the unit. However, you should consult with counsel prior to serving these notices.

Q: My tenant is in the middle of a fixed-term lease. I was informed by the next of kin for my tenant that the tenant recently passed away. Did the death of my tenant terminate the tenancy? 

A: No, since your tenant was on a fixed term lease the tenant’s death does not automatically terminate the lease before its expiration. You should contact the next of kin or executor of the tenant’s estate as they are responsible for rent through the end of the lease term. It is often beneficial to discuss early lease termination. I suggest that you review the tenant’s rental application to try to discern who the tenant’s next of kin may be.  

Q: My tenant is renting my condominium on a month-to-month basis. The neighbor reported to me that an ambulance took my tenant to the hospital and he later passed away. Does the tenant’s death terminate the month-to-month tenancy?

A: Yes, the tenancy will terminate 30 days after the rent due date of the last rent payment that was made by the tenant. For example, if rent is due on the 1st day of each month and the tenant paid rent on June 5, 2021 and subsequently passed away, the 30-day period would begin from June 1, 2021 and expire on June 30, 2021.  Additionally, if the deceased tenant assigned their interest in the premises to another person the assignee may reside on the premises until 30 days have passed since the due date of the last rent payment received. You should contact the next of kin/executor to discuss the removal of the deceased tenant’s personal property. 

 

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 [email protected]