What can a landlord do with belongings that a tenant left behind?

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What can a landlord do with belongings that a tenant left behind?

My aunt lives with us and we gave her notice to vacate. She vacated but left her belongings behind. We need that room for our children. Can we pack her stuff and store it in the garage?

Asked on March 20, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can.  State laws vary on what you can do with the belongings of a tenant when they vacate.   For example, in Wisconsin unless there is a written agreement to the contrary - like what is written in the lease - a landlord under Wisconsin law can take various actions in this situation. The landlord can store the tenant?s personal property, with a lien against that property. That means the tenant would have to pay any charges for removing and storing the property. The landlord must give the tenant written notice within 10 days after the charges begin. The landlord also can give the tenant notice of the intent to sell the property, if the tenant doesn't claim it within 30 days. The proceeds of the sale would go to the tenant, minus any costs the landlord had for storage, holding the sale, and so on. If the tenant doesn't claim the sale proceeds within 60 days, the landlord must send the balance of the proceeds to the State Department of Administration for deposit. Another option is for the landlord to store the tenant's personal property without a lien and later return the property to the tenant.  If you give the tenant notice - which is really the key here - and they tell you that they do not want the property- they intended to abandon it - the please: GET IT IN WRITING!  Just do not destroy anything at this point unless you have spoken with an attorney.


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