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What to Do When a Tenant Just Leaves Your House

Jason Hanson
2 min read

Several years ago I was renting one of my townhouses to a couple and a friend of theirs. They’d been with me for about two years and had been dream tenants. I’d never had any problems at all. Then one night I got a call from the woman (who was part of the couple) saying the police had just come by looking for their friend.

Supposedly, there was a warrant out for his arrest and they were there to bring him in. Well, the couple immediately called me and the woman was very upset. They had known the guy for a long time; they’d never seen anything “shady” with him, etc.

Then she wanted to know what she should do and she said “I don’t want him to live here anymore, I can’t get a hold of him and I haven’t even seen him in a week.” I had never been in this situation before so I immediately called my lawyer and took out my lease to see what it said.

In short, almost every lease should have an abandonment clause.

And many abandonment clauses are state specific. For example, my clause said that after 14 days of not being in the property and if they hadn’t paid rent, then I could declare the place abandoned and the stuff was mine. Of course, I ran all this by my lawyer and he said this was the correct way to proceed.

So I waited for the rent to come and it never came from him. He also never showed back up at the house. When the time was up I went over to the house and he had a room full of junk. A bed, a desk, a few CD’s and some clothes. I didn’t want to deal with it so I gave it all to the couple and they were more than thrilled to be able to sell the stuff on e-bay.

Interestingly enough…

The couple found out that their friend had been writing bad checks and had left the state because he was afraid of getting caught. It turned out the penalty for his first time wouldn’t have been that bad, but he was foolish and made things 10 times worse by running.

On a good note though, the couple loved the house and decided to sign a new lease and start paying his portion of the rent too, so they could have the entire place to themselves. What could have turned out a lot worse wasn’t actually that bad.

Should this ever happen to you, I would consult a lawyer and make sure you follow your state law. Also, see what clauses are in your lease so you know how to deal with tenants who for one reason or another may one day abandon your property.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.