Previous owners' tenant died, left lots of personal property

3 Replies

Hey Bigger Pockets Community - 

I am putting in a cash offer on my third duplex (very exciting) but there is definitely a unique twist. The previous owner rented to an tenant that passed away TWO YEARS ago. The owner never cleaned out the property of personal belongings; when walking through it looks as though that individual just disappeared, nothing has been touched. Luckily there is no stench and there was only a jar of pickles in the fridge. Among other things, there are two cars left on the property that belonged to the deceased. I do not have any knowledge of the owners attempt to outreach to the family, but I assume it was to no avail. I am in Missouri. What are my options? Can I take possession of the cars and resell/donate for tax write-off? Do I have a moral obligation to spend the time tracking down the family?

Appreciate the responses in advance!

304.157.Vehicles left unattended or improperly parked on private property of another, procedure for removal and disposition — violation of certain required procedure, penalty. — 1. If a person abandons property, as defined in section 304.001, on any real property owned by another without the consent of the owner or person in possession of the property, at the request of the person in possession of the real property, any member of the state highway patrol, state water patrol*, sheriff, or other law enforcement officer within his jurisdiction may authorize a towing company to remove such abandoned property from the property in the following circumstances:

  (1) The abandoned property is left unattended for more than forty-eight hours; or

  (2) In the judgment of a law enforcement officer, the abandoned property constitutes a safety hazard or unreasonably interferes with the use of the real property by the person in possession.

  2. A local government agency may also provide for the towing of motor vehicles or vessels from real property under the authority of any local ordinance providing for the towing of vehicles or vessels which are derelict, junk, scrapped, disassembled or otherwise harmful to the public health under the terms of the ordinance. Any local government agency authorizing a tow under this subsection shall report the tow to the local law enforcement agency within two hours with a crime inquiry and inspection report pursuant to section 304.155.

  3. Neither the law enforcement officer, local government agency nor anyone having custody of abandoned property under his or her direction shall be liable for any damage to such abandoned property occasioned by a removal authorized by this section other than damages occasioned by negligence or by willful or wanton acts or omissions.

  4. The owner of real property or lessee in lawful possession of the real property or the property or security manager of the real property may authorize a towing company to remove abandoned property or property parked in a restricted or assigned area without authorization by a law enforcement officer only when the owner, lessee or property or security manager of the real property is present. A property or security manager must be a full-time employee of a business entity. An authorization to tow pursuant to this subsection may be made only under any of the following circumstances:

  (1) There is displayed, in plain view at all entrances to the property, a sign not less than seventeen by twenty-two inches in size, with lettering not less than one inch in height, prohibiting public parking and indicating that unauthorized abandoned property or property parked in a restricted or assigned area will be removed at the owner's expense, disclosing the maximum fee for all charges related to towing and storage, and containing the telephone number of the local traffic law enforcement agency where information can be obtained or a twenty-four-hour staffed emergency information telephone number by which the owner of the abandoned property or property parked in a restricted or assigned area may call to receive information regarding the location of such owner's property;

  (2) The abandoned property is left unattended on owner-occupied residential property with four residential units or less, and the owner, lessee or agent of the real property in lawful possession has notified the appropriate law enforcement agency, and ten hours have elapsed since that notification; or

  (3) The abandoned property is left unattended on private property, and the owner, lessee or agent of the real property in lawful possession of real property has notified the appropriate law enforcement agency, and ninety-six hours have elapsed since that notification.

  5. Pursuant to this section, any owner or lessee in lawful possession of real property that requests a towing company to tow abandoned property without authorization from a law enforcement officer shall at that time complete an abandoned property report which shall be considered a legal declaration subject to criminal penalty pursuant to section 575.060. The report shall be in the form designed, printed and distributed by the director of revenue and shall contain the following:

  (1) The year, model, make and abandoned property identification number of the property and the owner and any lienholders, if known;

  (2) A description of any damage to the abandoned property noted by owner, lessee or property or security manager in possession of the real property;

  (3) The license plate or registration number and the state of issuance, if available;

  (4) The physical location of the property and the reason for requesting the property to be towed;

  (5) The date the report is completed;

  (6) The printed name, address and phone number of the owner, lessee or property or security manager in possession of the real property;

  (7) The towing company's name and address;

  (8) The signature of the towing operator;

  (9) The signature of the owner, lessee or property or security manager attesting to the facts that the property has been abandoned for the time required by this section and that all statements on the report are true and correct to the best of the person's knowledge and belief and that the person is subject to the penalties for making false statements;

  (10) Space for the name of the law enforcement agency notified of the towing of the abandoned property and for the signature of the law enforcement official receiving the report; and

  (11) Any additional information the director of revenue deems appropriate.

  6. Any towing company which tows abandoned property without authorization from a law enforcement officer pursuant to subsection 4 of this section shall deliver a copy of the abandoned property report to the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the location from which the abandoned property was towed. The copy may be produced and sent by facsimile machine or other device which produces a near exact likeness of the print and signatures required, but only if the law enforcement agency receiving the report has the technological capability of receiving such copy and has registered the towing company for such purpose. The registration requirements shall not apply to law enforcement agencies located in counties of the third or fourth classification. The report shall be delivered within two hours if the tow was made from a signed location pursuant to subdivision (1) of subsection 4 of this section, otherwise the report shall be delivered within twenty-four hours.

  7. The law enforcement agency receiving such abandoned property report must record the date on which the abandoned property report is filed with such agency and shall promptly make an inquiry into the national crime information center and any statewide Missouri law enforcement computer system to determine if the abandoned property has been reported as stolen. The law enforcement agency shall enter the information pertaining to the towed property into the statewide law enforcement computer system, and an officer shall sign the abandoned property report and provide the towing company with a signed copy. The department of revenue may design and sell to towing companies informational brochures outlining owner or lessee of real property obligations pursuant to this section.

  8. The law enforcement agency receiving notification that abandoned property has been towed by a towing company shall search the records of the department of revenue and provide the towing company with the latest owner and lienholder information, if available, on the abandoned property, and if the tower has online access to the department of revenue's records, the tower shall comply with the requirements of section 301.155**. If the abandoned property is not claimed within ten working days, the towing company shall send a copy of the abandoned property report signed by a law enforcement officer to the department of revenue.

  9. If any owner or lessee of real property knowingly authorizes the removal of abandoned property in violation of this section, then the owner or lessee shall be deemed guilty of a class C misdemeanor.

In all likelihood, you are probably safe to throw it all away. If no one came in 2 years, no one is coming. Now, I personally, would never start out a new venture by taking risks like that. Sit with an attorney for 1 hour and ask him what the best way to cover your *** is. Maybe you can post notice or put out an ad in the local paper. I, personally, would want to do something as a show of good faith in case something ever came of it, while fully recognizing its most likely nothing would ever come of it.