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After a tenant moves out, it is ultimately the goal of the property owner to make the transition seamless for the next tenant. Regardless of how or why the previous tenant moved out, this turnover requires a lot of work.

In a perfect world, this would be an easy and straightforward process. However, in reality, the transition between tenants can be time, money, and energy-intensive. As a property owner or manager, it is vital to understand what goes into this process.

After a tenant moves out, you must inspect the property. This can help you assess any cleaning costs, cost of repairs, and if there has been any property of the tenants left behind. If your previous tenant leaves behind a significant amount of their belongings, this can make the transition between tenants even more difficult. As a property owner, it is essential to know what tenant property consists of, what actions you can take, and how it can be avoided in the future.

What Does Tenant Property Consist of?

Dealing with abandoned property from your tenant can be a nuisance at the very least. Sometimes, it could be purely accidental, and on the other hand, it could be a long battle of trying to contact them and properly dispose of their belongings.

When your tenant first moves out, it is crucial to do an inspection as soon as possible. Make a note of the condition of the property and everything that was not there at the beginning of the previous tenant’s lease. This way, you can differentiate which items are belongings of the previous tenant.

Tenant property consists of any personal property of your tenant or their guests that was moved into the property. Depending on the terms of the lease and the reason they moved out, the landlord may be responsible for storing the property safely for a certain period. This can make you liable for the property until the tenant reclaims it.

landlord may be liable for the belongings until the tenant reclaims them

Check the Terms of the Lease Before Anything

Usually, a lease for a rental property states that a tenant is responsible for returning the property to the condition it was in when they entered the lease. This includes removing any of their personal property. You must verify this clause is in the lease.

The way the lease outlines property will also determine whether the process is simple or lengthy. It is important to note that you are only in the clear for using your discretion when it comes to handling tenants’ property if it is clearly stated in the lease or you have written confirmation from the tenant that they will not be returning to claim their items.

Dealing with Different Kinds of Tenant Property

There are different types of property that people can own. Each of these different kinds of property is handled in different ways if a tenant leaves them behind. Even though the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, it is important for landlords to know the difference when dealing with property left behind by tenants.


Fixtures can include anything that the tenant installed that appears to be permanent, and they didn’t remove upon moving out. This can include light fixtures, coat hooks, towel racks, shelves, and more. These items become a part of the property, and therefore they are the property of the landlord if not removed.

As long as there is nothing in the lease that specifically outlines the tenant’s responsibility to any fixtures within the property, then the landlord has discretion. This means that if you like them, you can keep them or if not, then you have the right to remove them and repair any damages utilizing their security deposit.


Most commonly, furniture is the kind of property left behind by tenants. Depending on the total value of the furniture left behind, you are responsible for storing the furniture, notifying the tenant, and then either keeping, donating, selling or discarding of it over a certain period.

Motor Vehicles

Any vehicle, in any condition, left on your property should be handled through local law enforcement. Call the non-emergency number for law enforcement and provide the location of the vehicle, plates, make, and model of the car. They can classify it as abandoned and arrange to have it towed.


Any garbage left behind in your rental, you may dispose of. This consists of any perishables like rotten food or obvious waste.

Hiring a Junk Removal Company

You can also hire a local junk removal company to remove all of the junk left by the tenant(s). Here’s a few of the items that they can remove.

  • Appliances
  • Furniture
  • Yard Debris
  • Bulk
  • Couch
  • Hoarder Junk
  • Mattress

Create an Itemized List and Store the Property

As you inspect the house, it is important to document and photograph the condition of the property, and any belonging left behind. This can protect you from being liable later for any damages to the items.

When storing the property, it does not need to stay on the rental property. It can be moved to a secure location, and the list can help keep track of what goes with that specific property. If there are any expenses associated with securing the property, keep receipts, and an itemized list. This can be taken out of the security deposit, paid by the tenant if they claim the items, or reimbursed by selling the items.

Contact the Tenant Regarding Their Abandoned Property

It is part of your responsibility to the tenant to notify them about any property they have left behind. This goes for any tenant and regardless of their reason for moving out. You must deliver a written notice of their abandoned property to their last known address or forwarding address based on the lease.

Include any images and information as to where it is being stored. This information should also include the costs associated with storing it, the timeframe you will store it, and what you intend to do with the property if they do not claim it (i.e. sell it, donate it, trash it).

If the tenant claims their property within the timeframe, make the items available for the tenant to retrieve at a specific time and place. Make sure they are clear with any storage costs or fees associated with it – whether it comes from their deposit or if they will be making payment upon retrieval. If the tenant does not claim their property, then it is to your discretion as to what you do with it.

Disposing of abandoned tenant property properly can help to avoid legal costs and damages later on.