If you're a landlord who's won an eviction lawsuit in Arizona, the judge will issue an order -- called a “writ of restitution” or “writ of execution” -- allowing a sheriff or constable to lock the tenant out of the rental unit. When this happens, you must certain steps to deal with the tenant’s belongings.
How long must I keep the tenant’s property after a lockout?
In Arizona, you must give the tenant notice and then hold the property for 21 days. If the tenant does not contact you and the waiting period expires, you may sell or otherwise dispose of the property, following the rules below.
How do I notify the tenant that I am holding their property?
You must take inventory of the property and then send the tenant a notice by certified mail, return receipt requested. You should send the notice to the tenant’s last known address and any alternate addresses you know of.
The notice should include:
- a copy of the property inventory
- the location of the property
- the cost of storing the property, and
- the deadline for claiming it.
For more tips on preparing a notice, read Handling a Tenant’s Abandoned Property: Legal Notice Requirements.
What are the rules about storing a tenant’s abandoned property?
You may store the abandoned property in:
- the former tenant’s rental unit
- any other available unit you own, or
- off the premises if you don’t have an available rental unit.
You must use “reasonable care” when holding a tenant’s property. (See Arizona Revised Statutes § 33-1370(E).) That said, you aren't liable for damage to the property unless you damage it on purpose or handle it negligently -- for example, by leaving a good sofa out in the rain.
To avoid problems, be careful when moving and storing the tenant’s belongings until the tenant reclaims them or you dispose of them.
I had to pay to store the tenant’s property. Will I be reimbursed for that cost?
Most likely, yes. What happens depends on whether or not the tenant returns to claim the property.
If the tenant doesn’t show up. After the 21-day waiting period is over, you can sell the property to cover anything the tenant owes you, including the costs of storing and selling the items.
If the tenant attempts to claim the property. Even if the tenant returns within 21 days of receiving the notice, you need not release the property until the tenant pays you for the costs of moving and storing it. There are exceptions to this rule for the following items, which the tenant may take back at any time:
- the tools, equipment, or books of a trade or profession, and
- identification or financial documents, including those related to immigration status, employment status, public assistance, or medical care.
If the tenant offers in writing to claim the property and pay you for any charges related to removing and storing the items, you have five days to return the property to the tenant in exchange for the payment. (See Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 33-1368(F) and 33-1370(E).)
The proceeds from selling the tenant’s property exceed what the tenant owes me. Do I get to keep the extra money?
Probably not. Arizona law requires you to mail any excess proceeds to the tenant at the tenant’s last known address. You must keep the money for the tenant for at least 12 months. (See Arizona Revised Statutes §§ Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 33-1368(F) and 33-1370(E).)
When should I get a lawyer’s help?
If you think the tenant’s 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. A good lawyer can help you protect yourself from claims that you have stolen or illegally destroyed a tenant’s property.
To read Arizona’s landlord laws, see Title 33, Chapter 10 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
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).