What legal remedies do I have to recover money and dispose of mess/property left behind by a tenant?

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What legal remedies do I have to recover money and dispose of mess/property left behind by a tenant?

Tenant has vacated the property. He also has a restraining order against him for threatening me. Moved out owing rent plus left behind huge mess and some property of value. He moved about 2 weeks ago. Said he would pick up the rest of his property within a couple of days. Has returned once to pick up property but still has a huge mess in the back of my property including a vehicle. I want to get on with cleaning my property and disposing of his discarded mess or whatever you want to call it. Can I just dispose of it? Am I legally liable for his property because it is on my property? Can I put a lien on the non-op vehicle he left here? and other equipment? Doesn´t he have to pay me reasonable storage for the items he has left behind? From the date he vacated or the date I inform him of charging him storage? What can I charge? Storage? Clean-up? He lived in a motor home in the back 1/2 acre of my property and although we never had a written lease, we had a verbal agreement that for payment of using my property he would do work around the property as well as pay the household utilities as they come in. He did minimal work around the property and never paid a dime towards utilities.

Asked on December 31, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You are going to need some legal help in your area to sort through this mess, literally. The fact that your lease is verbal could be a problem for you in establishing the parameters if the tenant states otherwise.  In the meantime, you need to obtain a formal order of eviction and a judgement to put a lien on any of the property or to be able to garnish personal property. And you are not to do the garnishing but the Marshall or Sheriff should do so once the order of eviction is signed.  Yes, it seems like a lot to go through but you do  not want him coming back to sue you for conversion of his property.  Get help.  Good luck.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If a tenant owes you rent, you may sue him for it. You can sue in either small claims (for smaller amounts; you represent yourself, so it's alot cheaper and quicker) or regular court (for larger amounts).

2) If the tenant has either damaged the property and needs repairs, or has left some "extraordinary" mess that requires spending money to clean (e.g. he's left so much garbage you need a dumpster and a forklift), you can take those amounts out of his security deposit and/or sue him for any amounts not covered by the deposit.

3) If there was a verbal agreement he'd pay utilities and he did not, he may be sued for those, too.

4) As to his non-trash belongings: you need to give him written notice to pick them up--at least 30 days, though 60 days is better. In the meantime, you need to take reasonable steps to keep them safe, which could mean putting them in storage. If you have to pay to store them, you can charge him the storage cost and make him pay to recover his belongings. If after, say, 60 days--when you can prove you sent him at least one, and preferably more, written notices to get his belongings (so send them some way you can prove delivery), you could dispose of them, or even sell them.


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