Property Management Blog

What to do With a Tenant's Possessions After an Eviction?

System - Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Property Management Blog

Once you’ve evicted a renter from your rental home, that doesn’t mean your difficulties with them are over. There may still be belongings left by the renter in your rental space. You may want to simply discard them but this is a matter to handle carefully since there are financial consequences.

As a responsible landlord you need to learn how to properly handle a tenant’s possessions when they’ve been evicted from your property. This article focuses on providing recommendations to deal with the belongings of a renter who got evicted.


Reason the Renter Left

Be aware of the renter’s reason for leaving the rental. Did they get evicted? The conditions surrounding the eviction process are crucial so you can decide how to handle the items the renter left. The extent of your duties can depend on the circumstances.

Different states have different laws regarding a landlord’s duty to manage the belongings of an evicted renter so you must do research first.


Opportunity to Retrieve

Not all states have the same requirements when it comes to a past tenant’s right to retrieve their items, so landlords must set a holding period over the abandoned property. Renters can then come back to retrieve the items. Otherwise, the evicted tenant can take you to court for withholding their items. 

packed boxes sitting in front of a covered couch

Landlords can store the possessions for a period of 7 to 10 days, providing the evicted tenant with enough time to get back their belongings. If you spend personal money to store the items outside the unit for longer, you may be able to ask the tenant to reimburse you. 

In Arizona, handling a property left by a renter can be dealt with in different ways. You need to be aware of any and all laws regarding tenant possessions especially if you are a first time landlord. 

If a renter left after the tenancy expires, landlords have the freedom to handle it in whatever way they want. However, if the item is valuable, reach out to the tenant right away. If fees are charged to remove the items, you can consider taking the charge from the security deposit of the renter.

In case renters are evicted and they’re legally locked out of the rental space, Arizona law lays out specific guidelines for review. Renters that abandoned the rental provide landlords with the freedom to discard the items left behind since they didn’t return to the rental property. 

a packed box and two suitcases sitting on a bed

However, landlords can still get in touch with the renter and notify them to pick up their possessions within ten days.


Tenant Notification on Property Disposal

Notifying a renter through certified mail and sending a request for a return receipt is a requirement in Arizona. The notice must be forwarded to the new address of the renter or provided alternate address. Make sure to mention the rental unit location and the holding period of the renter’s possession.


Retrieving Property

If the renter contacted you by writing before the item they left was discarded, a period of 5 days is given for reclaiming. You must also ask for payment for moving or storing the renter’s items before the tenant picks them up.


Storing a Tenant’s Possessions

The abandoned items or mails can be kept in different places:

  • The rental unit where the renter previously stayed in

  • An available unit or storage space you have

  • Outside the premises, in case you don’t have an extra storage area

In Arizona, you’re advised to apply “reasonable care” when handling a renter’s belongings. However, you won’t be subjected to damage liability unless the item is mishandled out of neglect or intentional abuse. 

 two people moving boxes into a truck

Keep yourself protected by exercising caution over a tenant’s belongings. Safely store it until the renter returns or until it’s time to discard the item. Make sure to properly communicate with them in order to have them retrieve their belongings. 


Reimbursement for Storage

It’s likely for a landlord to be reimbursed for safekeeping a renter’s belongings. However, in the case that the renter does not come to pick up their belongings, you may be able to sell them.  When this happens, you can plan to sell the item the renter left behind in order to make up for money you are due by them for rent, fees, or storage prices.

However, if the renter comes back to get the item, you can still store it until the renter pays you the storage and moving charges. Collecting a storage fee doesn’t apply to clothes, tools, equipment, trade books, financial records, and identification documents associated with immigration status, employment status, public assistance, or medical care.


Managing the Sale

Once you manage to sell off the abandoned item of the renter and a remaining profit remains  after deducting the account payables of the renter, Arizona law states that the excess proceeds must be mailed to the client. A landlord is given up to 12 months to hold onto the extra profit.

It is important to avoid common tenant complaints with both your old tenants and your new ones, so make sure to handle all abandoned possessions and sales with care. 


Protecting Your Future 

To limit situations where tenant possessions get left behind and stored for an indefinite period, as stipulated by Arizona state laws, you can add additional clauses in the lease. You can include terms, such as:

  •  Disposal fee for an abandoned belonging

  • Arranging different schedules in case a renter can’t do a single retrieval in one go

  • Informing the renter of a set period of keeping the items

Providing complete details in the lease agreement makes it easy for the landlords to dispose of abandoned possessions whether the renters left willingly or not. Doing this step also eliminates the risk of facing a lawsuit since you already provided the renter with the process of handling items they left behind in the rental space.


Bottom Line

Disposing of an evicted renter’s abandoned possessions is not as simple as simply throwing them away. Tenants have rights and you cannot throw their belongings away without going through the proper channels.

Before disposing of any abandoned belongings, consider checking Arizona’s laws when it comes to holding periods and sending notices. For any questions about Arizona rental laws, or for help managing your rental property contact SGI Property Management Phoenix