If you’ve won an eviction lawsuit in Indiana, you can ask the court to give you an order allowing you to remove the tenant’s personal property from the rental unit. This article answers some common questions about what happens after you have that order in hand.
Do I have to store the tenant’s property or can I just get rid of it?
Storing it would be the smartest move. According to Indiana law, you may remove the tenant’s property from the rental unit and deliver it to a “warehouseman” or storage facility approved by the court. (See Indiana Code § 32-31-4-3.)
If you want to opt out of the procedure offered by the state code, it would be wise to speak with a landlord-tenant lawyer (see below). You wouldn’t want to go to the trouble of succeeding in an eviction action only to end up sued by the tenant for improperly disposing of their personal property.
Do I have to notify the tenant before I remove and store their belongings?
If you plan to remove the tenant’s property and deliver it to a storage facility as described above, you must prepare a notice and have it personally served on the tenant at the tenant’s last known address. At minimum, the notice must include:
- a copy of the court order that allows you to remove the property, and
- the name and address of the facility where the property will be stored.
(See Indiana Code § 32-31-4-3.)
Whether or not you follow the methods set out in the Indiana Code, you’ll reduce the chance of further legal trouble by providing notice to the tenant before disposing of personal property.
For more tips on preparing a good notice, read Handling a Tenant’s Abandoned Property: Legal Notice Requirements.
I decided to take the tenant’s abandoned property to an approved storage facility. What happens next?
The warehouser must keep the property for at least 90 days before selling it. At any time, the tenant can reclaim certain items of property from the storage facility, including:
- medically necessary belongings
- property used by the tenant for the tenant’s trade or business
- a week’s supply of seasonable clothing
- blankets, and
- items necessary for the care and schooling of young children.
The tenant can claim other belongings only after paying the warehouser for the costs of storing and dealing with the property.
I had to pay to move the tenant’s property to the storage facility. Will I be reimbursed for that?
You have a right to be reimbursed. Unfortunately, Indiana law sets out procedures only for reimbursing a warehouser -- not you as the landlord. If you incurred costs related to dealing with the tenant’s property that weren’t covered by the tenant’s security deposit, you may have to sue the tenant in small claims court to recover what you’re owed. (See Indiana Landlord’s Guide to Security Deposit Disputes in Small Claims Court for more information.)
To read Indiana’s Landlord-Tenant statutes, see Title 32, Article 31 of the Indiana Code.
For more information about your rights and responsibilities as a landlord, see the Landlords section of Nolo.com, including the article Top 8 Landlord Legal Responsibilities in Indiana.
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).