Can your former landlord takeyour personal possessions?

UPDATED: Dec 30, 2010

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Can your former landlord takeyour personal possessions?

We just moved out of a home that we had no written lease on; we paid month-to-month. I returned and cleaned a few days later. When I arrived there the living room carpet was wet and the door was broken. They were not like that when we moved out. We verbally arranged with the landlord that we would return and pick up items left in the shed and yard because they would not fit on the truck. When my husband called today to let them know we were picking them up tomorrow, he was told that they have taken the items if we show up they are calling the police. Can they do that? Do we have any rights here?

Asked on December 30, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Yes you have rights--you can contract the police and let them know the landlord is stealing from you and threatening to misuse legal process to try to prevent you from recovering your property. You also could bring a civil lawsuit for either the value of any property the landlord took or for an order forcing him to return it. The landlord has NO right to take your personal property unless you (1) gave him the right--e.g. gave him some sort of security interest in the property, the terms of which were met; or (2) the property has been properly deemed abandoned, which it would be if you'd told the landlord you were coming back for it and did come back in good order. If the landlord believes you owe him something--e.g. that you're responsible for the door and carpet--his correct option is to sue you and try to prove his case; or try to withhold a security deposit, in which case if you disagree, you can then sue him for its return. Your personal property has nothing to do with the situation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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