Whether a tenant moves out voluntarily or after an eviction, you may find yourself not only cleaning up and repairing damage but also dealing with personal property left behind. Usually, this will just be trash that the tenant doesn’t want, such as old wine bottles, food, and newspapers. When it’s clear that you’re dealing with garbage, you’re free to dispose of it. Remember that you can deduct the cost of cleaning up a tenant’s rental unit and making any necessary repairs from their security deposit. For details, see Nevada Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines.
Getting rid of belongings that have value (whether monetary, medical, or sentimental) —such as bicycles, furniture, medicine, or family photos—is another story. Nevada has specific laws for when and how you can get rid of a tenant’s abandoned personal property, and this article will explain the basics of those laws.
The first issue is whether the property is, in fact, abandoned. This is easy to determine if you have received actual notice of abandonment. One form of notice is a letter from the tenant informing you that the tenant will be moving out of the rental unit before the lease or rental agreement has expired. Another clear notice of abandonment is when you win an eviction lawsuit against the tenant, and the tenant has either moved out by the eviction date or has been removed from the rental unit by a law enforcement officer.
Sometimes, though, knowing whether the rental unit has been abandoned is not very clear, especially if the tenant has left behind personal property. Under Nevada law, landlords must consider three questions before determining whether the property is abandoned.
If you can answer “no” to all of these questions, then you can presume the rental unit and personal property are abandoned (see NRS § 118A.450).
Even if you determine that the rental unit and personal property are abandoned, do not immediately dispose of the personal property. State law in Nevada (see NRS § 118A.460) sets out specific rules for how landlords must handle abandoned property.
First, you must store the property in a safe location for at least 30 days. Then, at least 14 days before you dispose of the property, you must notify the tenant in writing of your intention to get rid of the property and allow the tenant access to claim the property. You must mail the notice to the tenant at either the tenant’s present address (if you know it) or the tenant’s last known address (presumably your rental unit).
Unlike some states, Nevada state law does provide guidance on what information the notice should contain. It’s a good idea, though, to provide as much detail as possible, including:
You can charge the tenant for reasonable costs of storing and moving the property and can prohibit the tenant from reclaiming the property until those costs have been paid. If the tenant does not claim the property after you’ve followed these procedures, then you can dispose of the property, through sale or otherwise. You can recover your reasonable costs of moving and storing the property from the proceeds of the sale.
It is important to note that there are separate laws for disposing of abandoned vehicles (see NRS § 487). If the tenant has left behind a vehicle, you should probably contact a lawyer for help on how to proceed.
Before disposing of any property left behind by the tenant, be sure to check the terms of your lease or rental agreement concerning abandoned property. Under Nevada law, the lease or rental agreement cannot shorten the amount of time that you must store the property (30 days) or shorten the amount of notice (14 days) you must give to the tenant. However, the terms of the lease or rental agreement could increase the legal time periods (for example, your lease could require you to store the property for 45 days (not 30 days) before disposing of it (seeNRS § 118A.220)).
If the tenant has left behind a vehicle or you have any questions regarding the process of determining abandonment or disposing of property left behind by a tenant, you should contact a lawyer. A lawyer will help ensure you are following the law and help protect you from liability to the tenant. Nolo’s lawyer directory can help you find a landlord-tenant lawyer in Nevada.