Have you ever had a tenant just pick up and leave without telling you? Maybe they left in the middle of the night or in the middle of an eviction. While it may seem like a disaster in the making, their abandonment of your property isn’t the end of the world. In fact, if you follow the advice below, you can save yourself a lot of stress and money – and avoid the eviction process. Here’s what to do if a tenant abandons your rental property.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
The first thing to do is to have your lease handy and be certain that the tenants have left the property for good. Did any of the neighbors see them moving? Are the utilities shut off? Is there a change-of-address at the post office? Did the tenants leave behind any major belongings? If you can see inside, are there sheets on the beds? Determining whether a tenant has abandoned the property is often a judgment call, but these points can help you make it.
When a tenant abandons a rental property, the landlord has the right to change the locks. If the tenant has left behind any belongings, check the laws in your state as you may be able to just throw it out. In some states, however, you may be required to store the items for the tenant. If you do store the tenant’s things, be sure to notify them in writing of where you stored them. Be sure to give them plenty of time to retrieve the items. If ever you have doubt or questions, it’s best to consult an attorney who’s well-versed in landlord/tenant law.
If your tenants haven’t actually vacated the premises, but you’d like for them to, you can always “bribe” them to leave by offering them cash for keys. While this isn’t ideal when the tenant is behind significantly in paying rent, it does get bad renters out of your hair if they choose to take it. If you go this route, be sure to have the renters sign a release of liability so they can’t come back and sue you for anything. This option helps you get rid of problematic tenants without having to go through a lengthy, expensive eviction proceeding.
Every state is different in its laws governing landlord and tenants’ rights. It’s important you know the laws in your state, especially if you suspect your tenants have abandoned your rental property. Follow the advice above and contact your attorney to know how to proceed in this case.