Keeping renting out properties long enough and you’ll encounter junk abandoned by your tenants.
Deni and Brian break down what to do when you discover your renter moved out and left behind trash, furniture, and more.
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Brian: Hey, guys. Happy Tuesday.
Deni: Hey Everyone.
Brian: Brian and Deni Supplee here from Spark Rental. Super excited to be with you today. Today we are talking all about what to do when your tenant leaves junk behind in your property, which is not fun.
Deni: Outside of your property.
Brian: Or. Yeah, yeah. The broken-down pickup truck on the lawn, which happens all the time.
Deni: Oh. So, when I managed apartment complexes, which was our biggest issue.
Deni: Abandoned junk, abandoned cars and abandoned vehicles? Yeah, it was crazy. It’s like, you know.
Brian: Because you have to pay for them to be towed. Right.
Brian: And that falls on you?
Brian: Yeah. Not fun. You know, if you were in this game long enough, you will definitely have abandoned junk vehicles, you know, stuff left in your houses in addition to damage to the walls and the floors and all of the above. So, without further ado, you know, let us know where you’re turning in from, what your experiences have been with, with abandoned property, personal property in your real properties. And feel free to shoot questions at us as we go. That’s why we do these live so that you participate. So, on that note, Deni, tell us a little bit about where do you even start with tenants abandoning junk at your properties?
Deni: The very first most important thing is to determine if they actually have left.
Brian: Because maybe they just went on vacation.
Deni: Right? Right. And even if they still have the keys, they’re still paying rent. You know, the electric is on. And those things, even if there’s no stuff in there and they’re not paying the rent, you still have to be very careful in how you’re trading because technically you don’t have possession unless you evict them for nonpayment and you’re at the lockout point, even if you win a judgment in court. And you think they moved. You still have to go through certain things and depends on your state. But most states will allow you to secure the property. So, if you believe that nobody’s in there and the windows are open and, you know, the electric is off and the refrigerator is closed or whatever, you can go in and secure the place, but you can’t touch their stuff yet. Yeah. So, the biggest thing is determined have they left? And, you know, a lot of things come into play there. Do they give you notice and then leave before the lease was ending? Did they give you a notice and just left and forgot to give you the keys at the end of the lease or were they evicted? So, you really want to take all those things into consideration and be careful how you proceed and know your law.
Brian: Right. And the climate, the political climate of where you’re operating. I mean, some cities and states, super tenant friendly, you know, both in the actual laws, on the books and in the way that those laws are enforced by judges. So, you really need to have your finger on the pulse of how, you know, if there’s any sort of dispute, how friendly are the laws and, you know, judges’ interpretation of those law is going to be.
Deni: And be careful not to get your feelings in this, because I remember going into a rental that was in a bigger community that I was renting, and they destroyed it so bad they pulled the toilet. So, we had to go in and take care of that because there was flooding on the floor. And but they left their stuff in there. And we still had to follow the law. We still had to inventory it and take.
Brian: Even though it was waterlogged.
Deni: Yeah. All right. So be careful.
Brian: Yeah. And these are also I talk all the time about how you really need to be careful about investing in tenant-friendly markets, states, cities. We actually don’t recommend investing in any super tenant-friendly markets, but if you do, then you do have to watch out for all these things that you don’t necessarily have to watch out for in more neutral or more landlord-friendly states and cities.
Deni: Absolutely. And often your cities or your big cities.
Brian: Are usually tenant friendly.
Deni: Yes. So now you’ve done it. You made sure that tenants gone. He’s out of there. You want to go in and you want to document everything. You want to take pictures. There’s no reason.
Deni: Yes. Big time. Because they can come back and they can say, well, this was in good condition and now it’s not. And my landlord did this or something like that, and you can be liable, and you do not want most of it. Well, I shouldn’t say that you don’t want to be liable for somebody else’s junk.
Brian: So, yeah, they’ll claim that you broke their 70-inch flat screen TV that had been broken for years, but they’ll try to pin it on you. Yeah.
Deni: Or it’s an all-black and white from back in the day. And another thing just to make sure that they’re going or whatnot, you can talk to the neighbors. Postal workers have a wealth of information. They’ll let you know if they put an order for forwarding address in and all kinds of that kind of thing. So, there are a wealth of information, you know, and then contact. They and say, you know, you have stuff here. Are you keeping it, leaving it, whatnot? Now, you can do that initially, but then when you are wanting to contact them to, you know, let’s get this out of here or not, that should be a formal written notice. So now we have all this stuff, and, in this market, you can rent things out so quickly. So, you don’t want this rental held up while you have this stuff. So is your money. Exactly. So again, what I used to do when I had the communities is usually had a place. Sometimes it was a vacant apartment or wherever we could find to store the stuff so that we could re-rent the unit out. But you have to in Pennsylvania, it’s either ten or 30 days, and you have to pretty much protect their stuff until they come and get it. Now, every state is different, so.
Brian: It varies by state law and in some cases by city law as well.
Brian: Yeah, I know in Baltimore City where I used to invest before I knew better. Yeah. I mean, you have to store there. The tenants abandoned stuff for months. I mean, it’s crazy at your expense.
Deni: So, and you got to be careful what to you looks like trash because the last thing you want is them to come around and then you’re. Yeah, it can be a nightmare. You also want to save all receipts, everything for dumpsters, man hours for removing the stuff and putting it somewhere else and securing it. If you’re renting a storage unit, all of those things you want to make sure along with the normal damages and stuff that you’re going to deduct if there are any from the security deposit. But you are definitely I mean; it can be expensive. Dumpsters are expensive.
Brian: Very expensive.
Deni: Yeah. Especially now. They’re crazy. So.
Brian: Yeah. And, those portable storage units, are expensive. I mean so yeah. And these are also deductible expenses. So, you want to not only keep these receipts and invoices to build a tenant for their security deposit but also in case you’re audited by the IRS, you’ll want to have records to show that these were actual expenses that you incurred.
Deni: Absolutely. If you happen to sell this stuff so you decide to have a yard sale of a junk cell and that can be done. I mean, you know, you can put ads on wherever and try to sell the stuff once. You followed all the state laws, city laws or whatnot, and you’re sure that you’re actually abandoned. But now each state law also can tell you what you can do with the money, whatnot. So, you got to be careful with that, too. Yes, seriously. Most often you can just. Yeah. Put it towards whatever damages they had or whatnot.
Brian: Because in most cases, if they left your property with junk and trash strewn all over it, they probably left it damaged and filthy in other ways as well. So, I mean, you’re going have to pay for a professional cleaning crew to go in there probably and probably contractors or handymen to go in there and patch the holes in the wall and in your case, install the new toilet.
Deni: So, oh, my goodness. They left personal pictures and stuff behind. I just thought that was crazy to me. I don’t know those things. I went through a fire and lost all those things. So, when I see somebody just leave those older pictures, I mean, now we have the internet, but. Yeah. Yeah, it is.
Brian: So, I, I had a really weird and funky story. This is probably an inappropriate story to tell, but there was a property of mine where the mother was the tenant. She was a tenant of mine for like 30 years. I mean, not thought that I had been her landlord for 30 years, but she lived there for I inherited her, and her son was kind of a deadbeat and moved back in with her. The mother died. The son continued paying rent for a little while, then stopped paying rent. And I went over there one day and we think that he offed himself, basically, like he wasn’t in the property, his body wasn’t in the property, but he abandoned all this stuff there that like it didn’t look like it was like abandoned and stuff, but it looked like he had been living there and then just was no longer there.
Brian: But it was. Yeah, it was. It was bad. It was so yeah. That was quite a headache to sift through empty all the stuff out. We did have to go through some of those processes of giving it a certain amount of time and verifying that he had abandoned possession of the both the building property and his personal property inside it. So anyway, I don’t know. I don’t know why I share that story, but Adventures in the Morning.
Deni: If you’re like Brian said earlier, if you’re in this business long enough, you see some crazy stuff. Like I’m sure all of you guys have stories, some story where you went through an apartment and found some pretty crazy things and yeah, they’re yeah. Pretty, pretty nutty out there sometimes. A couple of weeks ago, maybe it was a month ago, I talked about what to do if a tenant passes in a rental. Make sure you watch that, too, because that’s a little bit different. So, you want to make sure and discern from that. I can tell you that one time I had a. A tenant who went to jail and his family started coming. And mind you, he was paid up till the end of the month, so I couldn’t do anything. And his family started asking for his keys and everything else, and it became a whole big rigmarole. So, you want to make sure and know your laws. And if you don’t contact an attorney because, you know, if you let somebody in an apartment that has no business being there and then the tenant does come back, even if he’s coming back from jail or whatnot, you’re the one that’s going to get it. So, in the same way, you got to handle their stuff, even if it’s ripped up and smashed or whatever, you still got to handle it.
Brian: The landlord’s always liable. That’s the bottom line. And then we should do a podcast episode soon on what to do if your tenant goes to jail. Because even though it’s sort of a niche experience, again, if you’re in this industry long enough, you’re going to come across that, especially if you’re working with lower-end units, which I used to be again before I knew any better.
Deni: That’s great. Yeah, it happens.
Brian: So, anything else? Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything you want to add before we call this episode complete?
Deni: Just those three things. Make sure they’re gone. Know the law on how to handle it and get rid of the stuff. Make sure you do it within the confines of the law. Whether it’s storing it for 30 days, they each have their time frames and be careful with the stuff. Even if you think it’s junk, you still have to treat it like it’s not right. And even if you’re pissed off because they ruined your place, unfortunately, you still can’t. Take it out on the stuff.
Brian: With a baseball bat, you know, like obviously.
Deni: I’ve wanted to, and that’s.
Brian: All right. On that note, we’re gonna wrap things up for today. We will see you guys’ next Tuesday, 2:00 Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific. Let us know what you want to hear about in the future on these podcast series. You know, again, it’s about you guys, about what you want to hear about. And as always, they’re interactive. So, feel free to shoot your questions to us. Reach out to us anytime and [email protected] and we will catch you on the flip side.