Tenant left tons of garbage and belongings

16 Replies

My tenant's lease was up and when he moved, he left a ton of stuff in the basement and garage, too much for the alley, will cost several hundred to have removed. He told me basically, it's not his stuff and he's not coming back. I have photo's, there are literally boxes with his name on the shipping labels. I texted and emailed him, told him to get his stuff, then I sent a notice that I would hold his belongings for 7 days, via certified mail. Illinois law states I must keep it for 7 days. My question is, aside from the junk removal fee, can I deduct storage fees or holdover rent from the deposit?

Not sure on state specific laws, but make sure to document everything, including communications with tenant, invoices from the trash hauler and cleaning company, and take photos. Good luck.

Originally posted by @Kat P. :

My tenant's lease was up and when he moved, he left a ton of stuff in the basement and garage, too much for the alley, will cost several hundred to have removed. He told me basically, it's not his stuff and he's not coming back. I have photo's, there are literally boxes with his name on the shipping labels. I texted and emailed him, told him to get his stuff, then I sent a notice that I would hold his belongings for 7 days, via certified mail. Illinois law states I must keep it for 7 days. My question is, aside from the junk removal fee, can I deduct storage fees or holdover rent from the deposit?

 You have possession of property, so you could pay someone to immediate put all items in a storage locker, Then after expiration of the waiting period, dispose of the items from the storage locker, then deduct costs for initial movers, storage fee, and labor you hire 2nd time to dispose items from storage after. This way you dont have to leave your unit vacant while you hold on to the likely unwanted items. Same advice as above. Inventory and take photos of all of the items. Communicate to tenant what is in inventory and that you will be disposing items on x date if not retrieved. good luck and reduce vacancy ASAP and get it advertised and re-rented. time is money!

@Kat P.

These are questions you need to be asking your local real estate lawyer.

You are going to be dealing with tenant junk for the rest of your time in landlording. It is an integral part of this business. My personal theory is that tenants collect junk and abandon it just as easily because it helps them maintain a personal illusion that they have some control over their living situation, in psychological terms "an internal locus of control."

With your lawyer, come up with a reproducible, LOW-COST plan for dealing with the situation, because it's extremely likely in your state, as it is in mine, that actually managing to collect on this sort of thing only happens once in a blue moon.

It's my guess that you are not legally required to hold a tenant's junk for any additional period of time at all after seven days. If this is the case, do not pay for storage. Go down to U-Haul and rent a truck, take the truck over to HD and buy two or three 55-gallon junk bins that two people can easily carry and move light stuff in and out of a small area with.

Use the bins to haul out smaller bulk items to the truck, move boxes and other larger items separately. Drive the truck to the local dump. Dump the junk, keep the receipts, deduct what your accountant tells you that you can from the security deposit. You will likely not be able to deduct your time, or the time of anyone who helps you out with this.

It's an ugly reality of the business few people ever talk about because many small landlords dispose of this junk illegally, hauling it out in the dark to a local dumpster or something. Larger landlords just dump it in their own apartment-complex dumpsters.

Whatever you do, don't go through the bother of going through the junk with an idea to find valuable stuff to sell in order to recoup your costs. The jewelry will always be fake, the records will always be worn out, the "collectibles" will always be worthless, the furniture will always be particle-board trash, there will always be stuff you don't want to see, and you will always be able to practically smell, feel, and taste the human misery of the thing. Tenants don't abandon their junk because they're too lazy to move it. They leave their garbage behind because they can't bear to be reminded of how much of their life has been wasted collecting it, and they want a clean break with the past. Explore that sad past as little as possible.

The tenant says its not his stuff .  Take pictures . Pay to have it disposed of  right away . Charge it to the security deposit .  Move on to next tenant 

Thanks for all the replies, I'm new at this! If I can't charge for my time, I will simply hire a company to remove it all and mail him a copy of the receipt, I don't want to spend an entire weekend on this. Nice analogy Jim K.

Anything you must do to correct the tenants deficiencies can be deducted from the deposit. Damages and clutter both count. Document everything and keep track of your expenses to the penny. Then after applying the tenants deposit to your expenses you will need to decide if the matter is big enough to pursue in small claims court and if the tenant is able to pay the judgement.

Don't forget to notify the tenant how you applied their deposit to the damages within 30 days. Send two letters. The first letter to their old address with "Address Forwarding Requested" written directly under your return address. The second goes to their current residence if you know it, this one should go registered mail. 

When they refuse to sign for the registered letter place both the mail forwarding response and the rejected registered letter in your file. You may need them to prove you responded within the time line allowed by Illinois law.

Originally posted by @Scott Steffek :

George's comment is spot on. CYA!

I know this is not good advice but when I have had hold overs.. I just call them once.. tell them its all going to the dump on Friday and if its not removed by then I haul to the dump.. but then again I self insure myself and happy to duke it out with them..

But do not do what I do .. I make my own laws with dead beats..  

Originally posted by @Kat P. :

Thanks for all the replies, I'm new at this! If I can't charge for my time, I will simply hire a company to remove it all and mail him a copy of the receipt, I don't want to spend an entire weekend on this. Nice analogy Jim K.

I charge for my time , but I run it thru my business 

@Andrew Babcock

I'm thinking more along the lines of Catholic religious jewelry collections of old biddies who die in place or do a midnight runner from a Section 8 apartment to an unassisted living community as soon as a place there opens up for them. We get quite a bit of that around here. If only their gold crucifixes and saints' medallions were as real as their love for Christ, but sadly, the more Jesus fills their lives and electrifies them with happiness the more gold-filled and electroplated their jewelry collection is.