Tenant's lease expired, hasn't completely moved out

12 Replies

I own a rental property in Connecticut and have yet to find the legal answer to my specific circumstance. I have a tenant whose lease expired 30 days ago, they moved almost all of their stuff out last weekend but some remained. I naively gave them their security deposit back without them giving me the keys.  They said they would come back to clean the apartment a couple of times but are not doing so.  Do I have the right to retake possession of the apartment, get it ready to rent again?  I think I'm supposed to mail them notification that in 10 days I will put their stuff in storage for 30 days, but I don't know if I can do that now or if I'm supposed to wait a prescribed amount of time after they started moving out.

Thank you

@Greg Walsh

Do you have a basement or another spot to move their stuff to? I wouldn't throw it out, but I would get in there and start cleaning things up. Tell them you are going to be doing it and if they have a problem with it, give them a deadline to get it out or else you will have to charge them for the month's rent. 

If they still have the keys to the property and belongings inside the property then they likely still have legal possession of the property.  But check your state laws on what's considered abandonment.  Do you have it in writing that they've moved out?  Did they shut off the utilities?  Those sort of things may help your case, but I'd suggest you consult a local attorney to be sure since this is an unusual situation and it sounds like you're unfamiliar with landlord-tenant laws.  You don't want to mess it up even more and end up being held liable to your tenant for the cost of their belongings or possibly an illegal eviction.  

@Greg Walsh If they stopped paying and haven’t fully vacated, you can’t take their stuff and move it nor can you change locks and bar them access. Once they have legal possession and their lease expires and they stop paying, then they become a holdover tenant. You would need to start the eviction process.

@Greg Walsh  Try to get the keys back from them, only then can you discard their things.  If they don't clean, you'll have to suck it up and clean it yourself since you gave back the deposit, or hire someone and use it as a write-off.  If they don't give you keys, they haven't abandoned nor surrendered the apartment.  30 days is a long time to wait, I suggest https://landlordlawfirm.com in Milford, CT if you need legal advice, my company currently uses them and they're great.  In the future, never return a security deposit back until you have keys, CT you have 30 days to return the deposit, especially if they pay by check each month, you want to ensure it clears.  Best of luck to you, keep us updated. 

@Greg Walsh We had a similar situation come up earlier this year here at CT PM. A tenant's lease had expired, and she just disappeared. Some of her stuff was taken, but most of it was left behind. 

That being said, our attorney @Edward Schenkel advised us that in CT the legal standard for a unit to be considered "vacated" is the return of the keys, by the tenant. Given that the tenant was not communicating with us, we couldn't get her to return the keys. At that point the unit is considered abandoned / the tenant has breached their lease. You have 2 options. 

1. Wait X amount of days and claim the unit abandoned. You still have to store the items for X days, if I recall correctly. 

2. File the notice to quit, and proceed with an eviction based on non payment of rent, breach of lease, etc. Even if you win the judgement, you will still need to store the items in storage. 

We looked into both options pretty extensively. Evictions can take a while if tenants apply for appeal after appeal. If they are indeed gone and not coming back to the area (and thus won't be filing an appeal) the eviction process is likely going to be the quicker, safer route for you as a landlord

Abandonment is fine and dandy, but for me the number of days we had to wait would be just as long as an eviction with no appeals would be, and if the tenant came back at the 11th hour, we would have no recourse. 

Your best bet is to get the keys back. 

Your second best bet is to get something in writing (via text is usually enough) saying that they have vacated the property. 

I am not an attorney and the above is based on experiences we have had at Connecticut Property Management, LLC.