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 you must wait before dealing with the property and what kind of notice, if any, you have to give the tenant before taking action.
Here are some answers to common questions about handling a tenant’s abandoned property in Kansas.
If a tenant leaves property behind, can I dispose of it as I see fit or are there rules I must follow?
What exactly should the notice say?
What are the rules about storing a tenant’s abandoned property?
I had to pay to store the tenant’s property. Will I be reimbursed for that?
If I legally sell the tenant’s property, do I get to keep the proceeds?
If a tenant owes me money, can I take and sell the tenant’s property to cover the amount due?
When should I get a lawyer’s help?
In Kansas, you may not sell, give away, or throw out abandoned belongings until at least 30 days from the date you reclaim possession of your rental property. You must also provide two kinds of notice stating that you will be disposing of the abandoned property:
(See Kansas Statutes § 58-2565(d).)
Be certain the lease agreement is legally complete before you start the clock on the waiting period and give notice. If you need information on the right steps to take to legally end a tenancy, see Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease on Nolo.com, read Kansas’s landlord statutes (see below), or consult a qualified lawyer.
Kansas law requires the published notice to include:
The published notice alerts the tenant of the pending disposal, but it also serves as a notice to others who may have an interest in the abandoned property. Note that you are not required to turn over property to anyone other than the tenant or a secured creditor who has a legal interest in a particular item -- such as an expensive piece of furniture purchased under a rent-to-own agreement. (See Kansas Statutes § 58-2565(d).)
You should store the property in a safe place and take reasonably good care of it. That said, you probably won’t be 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.
The tenant may reclaim the property during the 30-day period or at any time before you get rid of it -- but only if they pay you for the costs of storing the property, preparing the property for sale, and any other outstanding debts, including back rent.
(See Kansas Statutes § 58-2565(d).)
Yes. You must first use the proceeds of the sale to cover:
If there’s money left over after that, you may keep it.
(See Kansas Statutes § 58-2565(e).)
As discussed just above, you may sell a tenant’s abandoned property after the legal notice period expires and you may keep the proceeds of the sale. If the tenant’s property has not been abandoned, Kansas law forbids you from seizing it to cover back rent or other debts a tenant owes you. (See Kansas Statutes § 58-2567.)
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 a tenancy has been properly terminated or whether a tenant’s property is truly abandoned.
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 Kansas using Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.
To read Kansas’s landlord laws, see Chapter 58, Article 25 of the Kansas Statutes.
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).