When Your Residential Tenant has Abandoned Property

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As a landlord, you already know that renting an apartment or house includes its share of risk and frustration.   Unfortunately, one of the major hurdles occurs at the conclusion of tenancy.  What happens when your tenant has seemingly abandoned property?  Can you just throw it away?

It’s not always predictable.  Some tenants may skip out on you to avoid confrontations concerning damages to your property.  Others may fail to pay rent and leave the moment they receive an eviction notice.  Still others can decide to wait it out until you obtain a judgment and notice is posted on the door.  In any of these circumstances, there’s a chance that you’re left with a mess.

New Jersey Law and Abandoned Property

Before you decide to toss your tenant’s property into the dumpster, you should know that New Jersey has an Abandoned Tenant Property statute.  NJSA 2A:18-72, et seq. includes the following when it comes to disposal of abandoned property:

  • Before disposing of personal property, the landlord must notify the tenant by certified mail, return receipt requested or receipted first class mail. The envelope should include a notation requesting that the post office forward the letter.
  • The landlord should have reason to believe that the tenant does not intend to return to the premises or assert a further claim to them. Additionally, one of the following has occurred:
    • A warrant for removal has been executed, and possession of the premises has been restored to the landlord; or
    • .The tenant has given written notice that he or she is voluntarily relinquishing possession of the premises.

As a residential landlord, you should also note that you have specific obligations concerning the storage of the abandoned property.  Additionally, you are required to include information regarding storage in the notice you provide to the tenant.

Landlord May Have to Store Abandoned Property

Just how long do you have to hold on to abandoned property?  At the very least, you are expected to wait thirty days from the notice delivery is made to your residential tenant.  Alternatively, the time could run as long as 33 days from the date you mailed out the notice.  The time limits are longer when it comes to manufactured or mobile homes.

If you do not hear back from the tenant during the requisite time, you have several options.  Obviously, the first is to just dispose of the abandoned property.  However, you can also sell what has been left behind or choose to give it away.

Keep in mind that if the tenant does contact you before the end of the date contained in your letter, you do have to provide access to the abandoned property.  Moreover, you can’t hold on to anything just because the tenant didn’t pay you rent.

Contact Us

Are you a residential landlord and concerned that a tenant has abandoned property?  The Law Offices of Lawrence M. Centanni can help.  Please give us a call to schedule a consultation.

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