Evicting a tenant already comes with plenty of costs and extra work on your part as a landlord. Accessing the property only to discover piles of trash mixed in with potentially valuable belongings instantly increases your workload because you must complete an eviction cleanout before you can find a new tenant to occupy the property.
Handling the cleanout the wrong way could leave you on the receiving end of a lawsuit from the evicted tenant, even if they owed you money after the eviction. Check these five details in your state's laws for tenants' rights before touching anything left behind after an eviction.
1. Recouping Lost Rent or Costs
In some parts of the country, you're allowed to keep any property left in the home after the eviction is completed as long as the tenant still owes you money for back rent or damage to the property. This is due to an automatic lien on the belongings, but an automatic lien is not available in some states.
Your state laws may require you to formally sue the tenant for any money owed before the judge issues an order allowing you to keep valuable belongings.
2. Dealing With Garbage
While you may have to store a tenant's computers, clothing, or other items of value, you are not obligated to preserve every single item left behind. Anything that is obviously garbage or of low worth, such as food wrappers, perishable items, and loose packaging, are all open to clean up immediately after a tenant is removed from the premises.
Be careful when removing trash or hiring a service to start the eviction clean out while a tenant's belongings are still mixed in. Sort everything cautiously because a single receipt might be an important piece of tax paperwork or just trash ready for disposal.
3. Holding Property Properly
In many states, you must hold any personal property left behind by an evicted tenant for at least 30 days. In nearly every state requiring this extra step, the law allows you to relocate and reorganize the items as necessary so you can empty the property and start repairing it and leasing it back out.
Check what your state requires you to do with the belongings of an evicted tenant before you can take ownership of them or send them to the dump. You're usually able to recoup your costs for secondary storage as well by requiring the tenant to pay for storage fees before you release their items. However, landlords rarely can hold these items in exchange for back rent or other payment not related directly to their storage.
4. Notifying the Tenant
In addition to keeping personal belongings safe and available for a period of time, some states require landlords to notify the former tenants in writing of their ability to recover their belongings. A waiting period might be between the delivery of the written notice and the date you can assume they've abandoned the property.
If you're not sure what address to reach the former tenants at, you can use their last known address and request forwarding service by writing it on the envelope.
5. Making Professional Arrangements
Because you must carefully sort trash from valuable belongings so everything can be properly stored and removed, consider hiring a professional eviction cleanout service. A company experienced in handling these delicate situations can help you inventory every item going into storage so you can make a proper case for keeping some of the items in exchange for money owed to you by the tenant.
Need help with an eviction cleanout that requires a professional touch? Call us today at Total Trash Removal to find out what we can do for you.