Dealing with Tenant Abandoned items in Garages

6 Replies

I live in Minneapolis and am looking to house hack for my 1st property ever! My concern is, if I buy a duplex 1)am I required to allow usage of a garage on one side and 2) in the case a tenant leaves without removing their belongings from the garage do I have to hang onto it?

If I specify in the lease that any leftover items will be discarded of the day after moving am I allowed to do that in MN? I want to avoid having to put the tenant's stuff in storage and paying storage fees, etc. I'm also concerned that even if that is the case I would continually wind up getting stuck with paying to dispose of tenant's stuff.

Can I charge a monthly rental fee for the garage as well even if it's already attached to the property? I mostly want to buy a duplex in a way where if tenants leave I won't get stuck paying to store or dispose of their stuff. Thanks.

You do not need to give your tenant access to the garage. There are plenty of landlords who rent garage space to the highest bidder even if the person renting the garage space doesn't live in the property.

If items are left behind you do need to keep them for 28 days but you can charge (i.e. retain portion of security deposit) a reasonable fee to store those items.

There are lots of other things that are much bigger problems than some stuff getting left behind that I would worry about when considering investing in real estate. $100 for a month of storage unit or not using part of your garage for a month is a drop in the bucket.

http://www.startribune.com/renting-and-the-law-tenants-left-their-junk-behind/294413421/

Hi Gordon! I am a fairly new landlord in Minneapolis and have had the benefit of some great advice from folks who are active on here. I'm happy to help pass along what I have learned in the last few months. 

First off, get a copy of this: 

https://homelinemn.org/publications/landlordsguidetomnlaw/

It will answer so many of your questions, both from understanding the letter of the law, but also for practical advice on what commonly happens in real life. Even better, it is MN specific! Thanks so much to Tim Swierczek at iLoan who helped me get a mortgage on my triplex and gave me a copy of this. I keep it on my desk and refer to it often. There is a chapter on abandoned property.

On your specific questions, 1. no, you certainly do not have to include garage access in your lease, or even off-street parking at all. My building is in an area with ample on-street parking and none of the tenants care about the garage. You can offer it to a tenant for extra, rent the garage to someone else (say, someone who needs to park a sports car for the winter), or just keep it for yourself. If it is a multi-space garage with no separation between the bays, consider that it will be difficult to rent just half to someone for their exclusive use. 2. yes, you will have to hang on to any abandoned property (whether in the garage or elsewhere). This is a state law and no, you can't legally immediately discard any abandoned property. You are legally required to hang onto it for 28 days and you can't legally hold the belongings "hostage" til they pay storage fees. Since you have to return security deposits within 21 days of the tenant vacating, you can certainly get stuck with storage or disposal fees that you can't deduct from the deposit and aren't worth going to court over. It is nice to think you could somehow avoid ever having to deal with abandoned property, but that just isn't realistic. This is a cost of doing business and frankly, it would be common to have to deal with some of this even when just buying a single family home.

Keep in mind if you buy a property with existing tenants on a lease you will have to honor that lease. So, you may want to ask the property is cleared of all tenants when you purchase it (making that the seller's problem to get them and all their belongings out before you take possession). In this competitive market, good luck with that. It would be great if some abandoned property was your biggest concern!

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@Gordon Olson   lots of great questions.  It's good to learn these things early on.  You are correct in assuming there are laws on that deal with most of your questions so there is a correct answer.  I recommend you take the www.homelinemn.org class regarding Landlord-tenant law, they also have a book you can buy regarding the subject.  Here's the answers to your questions (not legal advice)

I buy a duplex 1)am I required to allow usage of a garage on one side- No you are not required to let a tenant use the garage and 2) in the case a tenant leaves without removing their belongings from the garage do I have to hang onto it?  Yes, state law requires you hang onto the belongings for 28 days.  It's MN statue 504B.271 you can find the full law here  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/504B.271

If I specify in the lease that any leftover items will be discarded of the day after moving am I allowed to do that in MN? No you cannot write a valid lease term that conflicts with state law.  You can but it would be invalid and you would loose in court and the penalty is severe.  I want to avoid having to put the tenant's stuff in storage and paying storage fees, etc. I'm also concerned that even if that is the case I would continually wind up getting stuck with paying to dispose of tenant's stuff.   Sorry man, I feel your pain but its a potential cost of the business in MN.  You can technically sell the tenants stuff after 28 days and after giving the notice to get your costs back.  That's assuming its stuff worth selling.  Its best just to put it in part of the garage and save the money.

Can I charge a monthly rental fee for the garage as well even if it's already attached to the property?  Yes, you can charge separately for the garage use, it does not have to be a person who lives at the property.  I mostly want to buy a duplex in a way where if tenants leave I won't get stuck paying to store or dispose of their stuff. Thanks.  See above, charge enough to make it worth it, and don't sweat the small stuff.  If getting rid of tenants belongings is your biggest problem as a landlord you will be living in the penthouse before you know it :)


Good luck and reach out if you'd like to meet up for coffee.

Thank you all for the great feedback!! I was told by a real estate agent I'd have to hold on to the stuff for 6 months hence my concern regarding this. Good to hear it's really only a month.
@Tim Swierczek   I think I'd like that. Financing may be an issue for you and I'd like to know what you have to offer. I'll look up your site and contact you next week. Thanks too for the line by line breakdown, that was helpful.

@Tammy Ziegler

Thanks especially for the landlord/tenant manual tip. I'm going to get a copy of that as well.
@Oscar Brooks Thanks for the article, I did read it.




One more question relating to this: what if the rental side of a duplex with an attached garage has a door to the garage? How would I ensure tenants don't secretly attempt to put stuff in the garage without my knowledge? Can I make what I believe amounts to illegal storage a condition of the lease and evict them if they do? And if they are storing items in violation of the lease do I have a right to keep their items instead of the 28 day holding period? What's to prevent them from attempting to do so?
I thought about if it's possible to board up this door too but I don't that that would work very well either.