Can I throw out the stuff my tenant left behind?

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Question:

A tenant vacated my property without paying rent for the last month, took the keys to the property with her, and left some of her belongings in the garage. I need to rent the property. What do I do with the belongings she left behind?

Answer:

Much as you might like to hurl the stuff as far as the wind will carry it, resist the impulse -- at least for the moment.

As unfair as it may seem, in many states, to stay on the right side of the law, you have to determine whether the abandoned property is worth anything -- and, if it is, you must let the tenant know that you have it and intend to sell it unless she claims it.

The whole procedure is often more than a little complicated. But it's worth learning the ropes, especially because future tenants may pull similar stunts. You don't want to find yourself sued over "destruction of property" because you disposed of abandoned property without following the rules.

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