At what point has a tenant abandoned the property?

8 Replies

We were in the process of evicting a tenant (7 day notice to vacate) and it appears the tenant has moved out (also, she hasn’t paid rent this month and it’s the 13th). She has changed the locks so we can’t get in. Do we still need to file a forcible entry detainer to get in if it looks like she’s moved out?

Jessica, is this the crazy tenant from the water leak situation or a new one? I would argue that for all you know she could be dead inside the unit, or injured and therefore you needed to call a locksmith to provide access. Depending on what you find you may wish to change the locks and leave the occupant a note describing how to get a new key? 

@Jessica Wood consider consulting a local landlord-tenant/eviction attorney. There could be statutory guidelines and diverting from a strictly construed process could create liability on your part. Even removing the belongings of an abandoned unit may have legal requisites. Here in Florida, attorney's fees are statutorily recoverable in all residential tenancies and even seemingly minor noncompliance by a landlord can produce a dismissal of their eviction and a judgment for fees against them, despite a non-paying tenant residing in a rental.

This is not legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship.

@Jessica Wood I think you are ok with assuming they have vacated the home. I would take pictures to show that they aren't living there and then you need to store the left over belongings for 30 days. I would consult with an attorney to verify, but you should be ok. 

@Jessica Wood I'm not sure what your lease States. However when facing a similar situation my property manager put a notice on the door to gain entry to the home in 24 hours. I think the notice said something like "we're unable to reach you by phone this is notice that we plan to inspect property on xx date. Please call to reschedule if this is inconvenient." And they took pics of the posted notice. The tenants didn't respond so they went in and it was indeed abandoned. At that point you are okay with changing your locks. Check your lease and an attorney to be certain.