Leftover belongings after lease ended 3 weeks ago

18 Replies

My tenants moved out at the end of the month because I would not renew their lease. Problem is that they left lots of things that they say they want, but have not come back for. New tenants are asking what to do with the items. How long do I have to keep items for past tenants? They moved 3 weeks ago.

@Vickie Bruce

Look up the local laws on handling tenant's properties. For now, if I were you, I would place the belongings in a storage facility. Notify the tenants on where you have it stored and it will cost them X amount (whatever amount it is that compensates you for your time and how long you hold it for) to get their item.

If they are not responding and you eventually have to dump their property, have phone records. recorded texts and emails that shows that you have attempted multiple times and through various streams to get in contact with them with no response. This will protect you when they decide to take you to court and claim they were never notified.  

If they moved out and handed you the keys , me  , I would trash the stuff .

Vickie,

I would follow the direction of @Brian Adzadi . Each state has laws regarding abandoned property. Look up your landlord tenant laws. Follow carefully, as they could say there was a “diamond ring” or something valuable in their belongings, and you stole it or threw it away. Sounds crazy, but I’ve seen some crazy stuff in twenty plus years 

Texas case law defines abandonment as the relinquishment of possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in anyone else. The relinquishment must be intentional, voluntary and absolute. Generally, the critical issue in an abandonment case is establishing the owner’s intent. This may be evidenced by acts, conduct and declarations. However, the mere nonuse of the property is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish abandonment.

The lease terminated and the tenant vacated the home. They've told you they left the home, which verifies intent.

I'm not an attorney but I would say you can remove whatever was left behind and dispose of it. You can also charge the tenant with storage and moving fees and deduct those charges from their deposit.

Before disposing of the belongings, I would give them 24 hours to pick the items up but it would have to be an "all or nothing" situation. I wouldn't let them come pick up a couch and leave the other 30 items which is what they would likely do.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

Texas case law defines abandonment as the relinquishment of possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in anyone else. The relinquishment must be intentional, voluntary and absolute. Generally, the critical issue in an abandonment case is establishing the owner’s intent. This may be evidenced by acts, conduct and declarations. However, the mere nonuse of the property is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish abandonment.

The lease terminated and the tenant vacated the home. They've told you they left the home, which verifies intent.

I'm not an attorney but I would say you can remove whatever was left behind and dispose of it. You can also charge the tenant with storage and moving fees and deduct those charges from their deposit.

Before disposing of the belongings, I would give them 24 hours to pick the items up but it would have to be an "all or nothing" situation. I wouldn't let them come pick up a couch and leave the other 30 items which is what they would likely do.

Well it's a good thing you are not an attorney because the landlord cannot do that without attracting liability. This is an involuntary bailment see the links I posted above. 

Originally posted by @Ihe O. :
Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

Texas case law defines abandonment as the relinquishment of possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in anyone else. The relinquishment must be intentional, voluntary and absolute. Generally, the critical issue in an abandonment case is establishing the owner’s intent. This may be evidenced by acts, conduct and declarations. However, the mere nonuse of the property is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish abandonment.

The lease terminated and the tenant vacated the home. They've told you they left the home, which verifies intent.

I'm not an attorney but I would say you can remove whatever was left behind and dispose of it. You can also charge the tenant with storage and moving fees and deduct those charges from their deposit.

Before disposing of the belongings, I would give them 24 hours to pick the items up but it would have to be an "all or nothing" situation. I wouldn't let them come pick up a couch and leave the other 30 items which is what they would likely do.

Well it's a good thing you are not an attorney because the landlord cannot do that without attracting liability. This is an involuntary bailment see the links I posted above. 

 The link you quoted does not in any way deal with Texas Law and in no way applies here

@Nathan G correctly quoted the law in Texas. A landlord can declare the property abandoned.  If the property was surrendered by notice and surrender of keys, I would have no problem disposing of the property. I would give them a courtesy 24-72 hours and then dispose of the property.  

Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Ihe O.:
Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

Texas case law defines abandonment as the relinquishment of possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in anyone else. The relinquishment must be intentional, voluntary and absolute. Generally, the critical issue in an abandonment case is establishing the owner’s intent. This may be evidenced by acts, conduct and declarations. However, the mere nonuse of the property is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish abandonment.

The lease terminated and the tenant vacated the home. They've told you they left the home, which verifies intent.

I'm not an attorney but I would say you can remove whatever was left behind and dispose of it. You can also charge the tenant with storage and moving fees and deduct those charges from their deposit.

Before disposing of the belongings, I would give them 24 hours to pick the items up but it would have to be an "all or nothing" situation. I wouldn't let them come pick up a couch and leave the other 30 items which is what they would likely do.

Well it's a good thing you are not an attorney because the landlord cannot do that without attracting liability. This is an involuntary bailment see the links I posted above. 

 The link you quoted does not in any way deal with Texas Law and in no way applies here

@Nathan G correctly quoted the law in Texas. A landlord can declare the property abandoned.  If the property was surrendered by notice and surrender of keys, I would have no problem disposing of the property. I would give them a courtesy 24-72 hours and then dispose of the property.  

 Sorry sir but you are incorrect. The tenants have clearly indicated they do not intend to terminate ownership so the Texas Case law cited is not applicable.

The Landlord is an involuntary baillee.

@Vickie Bruce you need to have a five minute discussion with your landlord/tenant attorney, get their advice, and follow it.

Originally posted by @Ihe O. :
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Ihe O.:
Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

Texas case law defines abandonment as the relinquishment of possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in anyone else. The relinquishment must be intentional, voluntary and absolute. Generally, the critical issue in an abandonment case is establishing the owner’s intent. This may be evidenced by acts, conduct and declarations. However, the mere nonuse of the property is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish abandonment.

The lease terminated and the tenant vacated the home. They've told you they left the home, which verifies intent.

I'm not an attorney but I would say you can remove whatever was left behind and dispose of it. You can also charge the tenant with storage and moving fees and deduct those charges from their deposit.

Before disposing of the belongings, I would give them 24 hours to pick the items up but it would have to be an "all or nothing" situation. I wouldn't let them come pick up a couch and leave the other 30 items which is what they would likely do.

Well it's a good thing you are not an attorney because the landlord cannot do that without attracting liability. This is an involuntary bailment see the links I posted above. 

 The link you quoted does not in any way deal with Texas Law and in no way applies here

@Nathan G correctly quoted the law in Texas. A landlord can declare the property abandoned.  If the property was surrendered by notice and surrender of keys, I would have no problem disposing of the property. I would give them a courtesy 24-72 hours and then dispose of the property.  

 Sorry sir but you are incorrect. The tenants have clearly indicated they do not intend to terminate ownership so the Texas Case law cited is not applicable.

The Landlord is an involuntary baillee.

 What??????? Texas case law does not apply to a Texas landlord/tenant dispute?  Did you really post that ?

What court does have jurisdiction? Federal court? International court ? The People's court? Sorry had to throw that one in

Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Ihe O.:
Originally posted by @Greg H.:
Originally posted by @Ihe O.:
Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

Texas case law defines abandonment as the relinquishment of possession with the intent of terminating ownership but without vesting it in anyone else. The relinquishment must be intentional, voluntary and absolute. Generally, the critical issue in an abandonment case is establishing the owner’s intent. This may be evidenced by acts, conduct and declarations. However, the mere nonuse of the property is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish abandonment.

The lease terminated and the tenant vacated the home. They've told you they left the home, which verifies intent.

I'm not an attorney but I would say you can remove whatever was left behind and dispose of it. You can also charge the tenant with storage and moving fees and deduct those charges from their deposit.

Before disposing of the belongings, I would give them 24 hours to pick the items up but it would have to be an "all or nothing" situation. I wouldn't let them come pick up a couch and leave the other 30 items which is what they would likely do.

Well it's a good thing you are not an attorney because the landlord cannot do that without attracting liability. This is an involuntary bailment see the links I posted above. 

 The link you quoted does not in any way deal with Texas Law and in no way applies here

@Nathan G correctly quoted the law in Texas. A landlord can declare the property abandoned.  If the property was surrendered by notice and surrender of keys, I would have no problem disposing of the property. I would give them a courtesy 24-72 hours and then dispose of the property.  

 Sorry sir but you are incorrect. The tenants have clearly indicated they do not intend to terminate ownership so the Texas Case law cited is not applicable.

The Landlord is an involuntary baillee.

 What??????? Texas case law does not apply to a Texas landlord/tenant dispute?  Did you really post that ?

What court does have jurisdiction? Federal court? International court ? The People's court? Sorry had to throw that one in

No. All you have to do is find and cite the Texas statute that deals with the common law doctrine of an involuntary bailment  instead of casting the situation here as one of intentional abandonment when on a clear reading of the OP's post it is explicitly not that.

Are you saying there is already a new tenant occupying the property with the original tenants' stuff in there?

@Ihe O. bailment occurs "when a person who IS NOT a Landlord agrees to hold property for another." 

This is a Landlord-Tenant situation and the Landlord DID NOT agree to hold their possessions. The lease terminated and the tenants were supposed to move out, completely. They failed to remove all their possessions, which is the very definition of "abandoned property" and he should act accordingly.

Here's the actual Texas statute:

(d) A tenant is presumed to have abandoned the premises if goods, equipment, or other property, in an amount substantial enough to indicate a probable intent to abandon the premises, is being or has been removed from the premises and the removal is not within the normal course of the tenant's business.

(e) A landlord may remove and store any property of a tenant that remains on premises that are abandoned.  In addition to the landlord's other rights, the landlord may dispose of the stored property if the tenant does not claim the property within 60 days after the date the property is stored.  The landlord shall deliver by certified mail to the tenant at the tenant's last known address a notice stating that the landlord may dispose of the tenant's property if the tenant does not claim the property within 60 days after the date the property is stored.


As I said before, I'm sure these items are not high-end. I would notify the former tenants - in writing - that they have 24 hours to compensate you for storage and then remove the items. Anything left behind after that would be considered abandoned and disposed of as you see fit.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

@Ihe O. bailment occurs "when a person who IS NOT a Landlord agrees to hold property for another." 

This is a Landlord-Tenant situation and the Landlord DID NOT agree to hold their possessions. 

And that is why the bailment is involuntary. If the landlord had agreed to hold them it would have been a voluntary bailment.

The best advice to the OP was given earlier. They should consult an attorney.  

The problem with your interpretation  is that if a tenant mistakenly or otherwise left behind something of value e.g valuable jewelry, then the law as you state it would allow the landlord to claim it was abandoned and convert it to his own use.

First, I would like to thank everyone for their input on my discussion.  This site has been a tremendous help to me as a new landlord.  I inherited this property, since my parents passed away, and it was my dads legacy to his children therefore, I could never sell. He always said, "the price of land will never go down, only up."  He has 2 daughters and told us, "I never want my girls to have to put up with a man to have a roof over their head."  So now I have 5.  

These tenants that moved out on November 30th could not return their keys because they stated that they lost them. They had their utilities turned off and took anything of necessity with them. I have been in contact with them several times and they say they are busy but will get to it.  They ran out of room in vehicles when moving out.  They left bags and bags of garbage and trash and what was left was a bed frame they made out of pallets, old clothes and junk in my opinion. One of them already came back to get some fence panels left behind.  And everything that was left was moved into the garage by them before leaving.  My concern is that the new tenants living there should not have to wonder when or if someone is coming to their rental to pick up left items and if they do come, they may possibly take more than what is theirs. We live in far rural area and at times none of the new tenants are at home. This create an uneasy feeling for all of us.  Therefore, I just want to put an end to having to worry when or if they may show up again for things.

If this puts a new light on things, I would appreciate your input.  Thank you so much.

Vickie Bruce

@Vickie Bruce I manage over 300 rentals, I've been a Landlord for about 13 years, and I network with hundreds of property managers around the country, many of whom work in Texas. I'm not giving legal advice; I'm giving you real-world advice from one person to another.

"Bailment" applies if you took possession of the property, which is not the case. The lease ended and the tenant "abandoned" the property which is clearly addressed in the statutes I shared above. If these items have value, you should place them in storage and notify the tenant (in writing) that they have 60 days to retrieve the items. By the way, you are allowed to charge them for moving and storage expenses before allowing them to retrieve the items.

If the items have little or no value (i.e. a 1994 17" television that weighs 70 pounds or a large chest of drawers from the 70's that's missing two handles and a drawer) then you can dispose of them as you see fit. I suspect they left behind old mattresses, worn or broken furniture, clothes, tupperware, and other junk. If it were important to them, they would have been back by now.

Take photographs of everything, get rid of it as you see fit, and move on. The risk of them coming after you for a worn-out couch or a Chewbacca T-shirt is slim and none. Even if they did, I believe you could justify your actions to a judge and even counter-sue for storage costs, moving, cleaning, etc.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

@Vickie Bruce I manage over 300 rentals, I've been a Landlord for about 13 years, and I network with hundreds of property managers around the country, many of whom work in Texas. I'm not giving legal advice; I'm giving you real-world advice from one person to another.

"Bailment" applies if you took possession of the property, which is not the case. The lease ended and the tenant "abandoned" the property which is clearly addressed in the statutes I shared above. If these items have value, you should place them in storage and notify the tenant (in writing) that they have 60 days to retrieve the items. By the way, you are allowed to charge them for moving and storage expenses before allowing them to retrieve the items.

If the items have little or no value (i.e. a 1994 17" television that weighs 70 pounds or a large chest of drawers from the 70's that's missing two handles and a drawer) then you can dispose of them as you see fit. I suspect they left behind old mattresses, worn or broken furniture, clothes, tupperware, and other junk. If it were important to them, they would have been back by now.

Take photographs of everything, get rid of it as you see fit, and move on. The risk of them coming after you for a worn-out couch or a Chewbacca T-shirt is slim and none. Even if they did, I believe you could justify your actions to a judge and even counter-sue for storage costs, moving, cleaning, etc.

Like you said you are not an attorney. A bailment arises when you come into possession of property that does not belong to you. 

I'm not an attorney either but I  have won a bailment case as a litigant. Here's how.

I was subletting a room from a friend who was the lawful head tenant. I travelled abroad for 6 months and left my stuff with him because I intended to return to the property. While I was away he got evicted. I showed up at the property 2 months after the eviction and asked for my stuff, the landlord (who lived next door) denied knowledeg of me and told me I should speak to G.

G told me that before he had moved out he had put my stuff in the garage of the property. I wrote back to the landlords and was told they had new tenants and everything in the garage had been thrown  away. So I took them to court. They produced a lease showing that the G's sublet to me was unlawful, I told the judge that was irrelevant, that the landlords had become involuntary bailee's and they unlawfully disposed of my property. They had a duty of care to enquire about the property's ownership and if they had enquired with G they would have been told who owned the property and where I was. 

I won and the landlord was ordered to pay me damages.

My advice to the OP . Do not dispose of that property without taking an inventory and ideally photographic evidence. 

As a matter of fact don't dispose of that property without speaking to an attorney unless you want to find yourself on the hook for the proverbial jewellry box.

@Vickie Bruce       Note in the above story that G the person who I left my stuff with was not the one held to be liable. To be fair I did not sue them jointly so he was never on the hook but the issue of whether that was who I should have been suing never arose.

@Nathan G.   My interpretation of the above situation. There were two bailments. 

1. An voluntary one from G  to me in which G discharged his duty of care by storing my goods with the landlord and informing me where they were. 

2. An involuntary one from the landlord to me where the duty of care was not discharged because the landlord intentionally destroyed (or so he claimed) the goods. 

It should not be hard to see why such a legal doctrine exists. If someone leaves something valuable behind it doesn't automatically become the landlords  just because it was left on his property.

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