There are many different reasons why a tenant might abandon a property– they can’t afford rent, are facing eviction, or don’t want to deal with the legal process of breaking a lease. Despite the circumstances, it’s always stressful as a landlord to handle such a situation, and it’s important to follow certain steps to ensure the rental property is ready for another tenant.

Establish Abandonment

Whether the tenant hasn’t paid rent in a few months or you suddenly see a moving van in front of the property, it’s important to make sure they really are gone. At this point, many landlords decide to go about this by themselves, however, it’s a good idea to get the police involved. Even if you don’t suspect any illegal activities, the police can clear the property and give you peace of mind that nothing will happen as you continue making plans and let you know how best to go forward.

Examine What’s Been Left Behind

If the property has been abandoned, it’s likely that the tenant will have left property behind in their hurry to go. It’s a good idea to keep a list and/or take pictures of items you find in case the tenant gets in touch with you and wants any of their things. You can treat this as a move-out inspection, listing damages as you go as well. Any garbage or perishables you find, you can throw away. Everything else you’ll want to store them and then either return, sell, or throw them away after some time.  

Notify the Tenant

No matter how a tenant leaves a rental, it’s important to notify them of the results of the move-out inspection. You may refer to their rental application to find their last known residence or their emergency contact information to send them these notices. You must give them a written notice of the abandoned property with a return receipt to the addresses on file. This should include an itemized list of the property with images, the deadline for claiming their property (this will depend on your state’s laws), where the property is being stored, a charge for storing the property, and information about what you’ll do with the property if it’s not claimed within the allotted time.

Change the Locks and Advertise

Once you’ve cleaned out the property and notified the old tenant, the best thing to do is move on. If you haven’t before this experience, be sure to add an abandoned property clause in the lease so future tenants are aware of what would happen if they did the same. Advertise the property as vacant and get screen your applicants to hopefully get someone better than the last. The best thing you can do is get someone else in as soon as possible so as not to lose any profit on your property.