Most states have laws governing what happens when a tenant moves out and leaves personal property behind. These laws may control matters such as how long landlords must wait before dealing with the property and what kind of notice, if any, landlords have to give tenants before taking action.
Here are some answers to common landlord questions about handling a tenant’s abandoned property in Arkansas.
If a tenant leaves property behind, can I dispose of it as I see fit or are there rules I must follow?
If a tenant owes me money, can I take and sell the tenant’s property to cover the amount due?
Do I need to notify the tenant before disposing of abandoned property?
When should I get a lawyer’s help?
In Arkansas, the rule for dealing with abandoned property is straightforward. If a tenant leaves property behind at the end of a lease, you can dispose of it however you like -- for example, by selling it, giving it away, or tossing it out. (See Arkansas Code § 18-16-108.) There is no waiting period.
This rule applies no matter what the circumstances of the tenant’s departure. In other words, it makes no difference whether the tenant plans to move and gives proper notice, is physically evicted, or simply disappears. What does matter is that you know the rental agreement is legally complete before you dispose of the tenant’s property.
For more information on the right steps to take to legally end a tenancy, see Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease on Nolo.com, read Arkansas’s landlord statutes (see below), or consult a qualified lawyer.
As discussed above, you are free to take and sell a tenant’s legally abandoned property to cover what the tenant owes you. If the tenant’s property has not been abandoned, you may still have a claim (called a “lien”) on the tenant’s property for unpaid rent. In this situation, you will need to first file a lawsuit and get a court order. Before taking action, research Arkansas law or talk to your landlords’ association or a lawyer.
For tips on learning more about Arkansas landlord laws, see Handling a Tenant’s Abandoned Property: An Overview.
Arkansas law does not require you to give notice to a tenant before you dispose of abandoned property. However, it’s always good business practice to provide notice before getting rid of a tenant’s belongings.
For suggestions on what to include in the notice -- such as a description of the property, its estimated value, and a deadline for reclaiming it -- see Handling a Tenant’s Abandoned Property: Legal Notice Requirements.
If you think the abandoned property is very valuable or if you have any reason to believe the tenant may cause problems later, talk to a lawyer before you do anything other than carefully store the tenant’s possessions. It’s particularly important to get a lawyer’s advice if you have any questions about whether the tenancy has been properly terminated.
A good lawyer can help you protect yourself from claims that you have stolen or illegally destroyed a tenant’s property. You can search for an experienced landlord-tenant attorney in Arkansas using Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.
To read Arkansas’s landlord laws, see Title 18, Subtitle 2, Chapter 16 of the Arkansas Code.
For more information about your rights and responsibilities as a landlord, see the Landlords section of Nolo.com.
If you want a comprehensive legal and practical handbook for residential landlords, check out Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, by Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, and Janet Portman (Nolo).