Vermont law sets out specific procedures landlords must follow when dealing with property that a tenant leaves behind after an eviction. Note that Vermont statutes mandate different procedures when a tenant abandons property in circumstances other than after an eviction (see Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9 § 4462 (2021)).
Yes, the landlord can remove the abandoned property after a certain amount of time. The landlord must wait either 15 day days after a writ of possession is served or until the landlord legally regains possession of the rental—whichever is later. If the rental unit was a mobile home, then the landlord must wait at least 40 days after the eviction occurred. (see Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12 § 4854a (2021).)
After the landlord has waited the required amount of time (see above), the landlord can immediately dispose of or sell the property, without giving notice to the former tenant. According to the Vermont Judiciary, the landlord can deduct the cost of disposing of the property from the former tenant's security deposit.
The tenant can reclaim the property at any point before the landlord gains the right to dispose of it (see above).
No. Under Vermont law, a landlord is not required to notify the tenant before disposing of or selling the tenant's property.
In Vermont, the landlord does not become the owner of property left behind after an eviction. The landlord is free to dispose of the property, but if the landlord sells or retains the property, the former tenant has a claim to any benefit the landlord receives.
Example: A tenant's bicycle was left in the rental's garage after the tenant was evicted. The tenant is gone, and the landlord has possession of the rental. The landlord pays $5 to list the bicycle for sale (for $100) in a local classified ad. The ad is successful, and the landlord gets $100 from a buyer of the bicycle. The landlord can legally keep the $5 spent for getting rid of the bicycle. However, the former tenant has a claim for the remaining $95 the landlord has as a result of selling the bicycle. The former tenant could sue the landlord under Vermont's unjust enrichment laws.
Vermont landlords should consider consulting a lawyer when they believe the abandoned property might be very valuable or when they have any reason to believe the former tenant might dispute the landlord's disposition of the property. With the help of a knowledgeable lawyer, landlords can take steps to protect themselves from possible future claims that they stole or destroyed a tenant's property.