How to Deal With What Your Tenant Leaves Behind

by | Aug 2, 2010 | Rental Property Management Tips

Canadian Landlords Allowed Some Discretion in Getting Junk Out of Rentals
Fortunately, most tenancies go along without consequence.  But every now and again a landlord faces the challenge of a tenant who leaves behind personal property.  
Whether it’s the simple inconvenience of finding leftover food in the refrigerator, or the heartbreak of discovering a malnourished animal, a landlord needs to have a strategy in place for dealing with abandoned property: 
Step 1
Be certain you have the right to enter the property and remove the belongings.
Provincial laws offer guidance to determine when the tenant’s personal property is considered “abandoned.”  This generally coincides with whether the rental property has been abandoned.  It is likely that if the tenant has stopped paying rent and has removed most possessions, the landlord can assume the property is abandoned; however, check with your local Landlord Tenant/Residential Tenancy Board, legal counsel or apartment association for specific rules before you remove any items.
Step 2
Protect yourself against a false claim by the tenant. 
While some provinces allow the landlord to discard unsafe or unsanitary items, perishable or worthless items, items estimated to be worth less than a specific amount or less than the storage costs, it is always best to check with your Board, legal counsel or apartment association before you throw something away to avoid claims later on.
Where a landlord has the discretion to dispose of items, it is advisable to take photographs and record an inventory in case the tenant later claims the items were of higher value.  This may happen, for example, at the time the landlord attempts to collect tenant debt.
Landlords generally are required to maintain records in case the tenant objects at a later date.  Also, retain receipts for any costs associated with handling the abandoned property.
Step 3
Is notice required?
Many landlords are required to store items for a specific time, typically 30 or 60 days, while other landlords are required to apply and wait for a ruling from a hearing officer.  Check with your local Board, legal counsel or apartment association for your specific requirements.
Abandoned pets are a special circumstance.  The tenant may have committed a crime by leaving behind a pet without adequate care. Additionally, the animal may behave unpredictably and be unsafe to handle.  It is always a good idea to contact your local Humane Society or Animal Control Services to ask for guidance before you take action where animals are concerned. 
If you are required to store the property, you will be required to give notice to the tenant or the owner of the personal property before disposing of it.  Some Provincial rules offer specific guidance as to the content of the notice, the gist being to list the property and inform the tenant it will be disposed of unless they respond by a date certain. 
In cases where landlords are required to store property, tenants are required to pay reasonable costs of moving and storage, and may be required to pay rent in arrears before claiming the property.
Once the time period of notice has expired or a ruling is given that the property can be disposed of, the landlord is free to do so in any commercially reasonable manner.
In some cases, valuable items can be sold and the proceeds applied to past due rent. 
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Services, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only). 


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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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