POSTED ON Mar 25, 2021 7:45:00 AM / by Real Property Associates

What To Do When Tenants Disappear and Leave Belongings Behind

As you grow a real estate investment portfolio in Seattle, you'll encounter a wide variety of renter situations. Whether they're coming, going, or renewing a lease for another term, no two residents are the same. 

What happens when a renter moves out—but their stuff stays behind? It might seem strange to think of moving to a new home and leaving any belongings behind. As a long-time Seattle property management company, we've seen this happen more often than investors might expect.

Before you call a local junk hauler to take their stuff away or try to sell anything on Craigslist, make sure you know the rules. Here's what real estate investors need to think through when dealing with belongings left behind by former residents.

Pile of Washing

Try To Reach the Renter

When a renter moves out, you collected a forwarding address to use when returning their security deposit—unless they don't get it back. You also have an email address and phone number from your records while they rented your property. When you discover that a resident moved out and left some things behind, try to contact them.

It's possible they overlooked a stash of stuff behind a door or in a closet. Contacting them and making efforts to reunite a former renter with their things is a thoughtful thing to do—especially when good renters move on to a new home. 

However, if it's a significant amount of stuff, or it's clear your Seattle residents bolted out of the property in a hurry and without letting you know, it's time to get some help. 

Consult Your Lawyer

A lawyer can help you assess the situation and use a legal approach to dealing with items your renters didn't take when they moved out. Consulting your lawyer helps avoid a lawsuit if your renters claim you withheld their personal belongings against their wishes.

In many situations, investors can remove trash and debris. Leaving it in the property can cause damage and invite pest activity into the home. Residents won't be back for trash, and there's no reason to save it for them. 

If the situation involves difficult renters, it's helpful to involve a Seattle property management team, too. Our experts can itemize the items in the rental and work with your legal advisor to handle renters who left furniture, clothing, or other items in your property.

Check the Lease

What does the lease say? A thorough lease agreement can include details about what happens to a renter's property if they leave it when they move out. If the lease outlines a timeframe for renters to leave the property and move belongings out, make sure there are also notes about what happens if a resident fails to remove all items by the deadline.

If a renter left without notice and stopped paying the rent, investors might have more options to recover lost income from the nonpayment of rent. Let your lawyer guide you through your legal options to deal with items of value or anything that isn't trash, and hire a Seattle property management company to enforce the lease and deal with abandoned property in your rental.

Strenuous young man moving boxes from car into new house

Look for a New Renter

Stuff that's left behind from a prior resident doesn't keep you from finding your next Seattle renter! Even if moving or storing the left-behind items is still in progress, investors can start the makeready process and market the vacant rental with a property listing.

There's no need to deal with an extended vacancy when a renter bails on your property or leaves stuff in the rental. A property manager can help you deal with the former resident and their stuff while getting your property rental-ready for a new high-quality renter.

Avoid Renters Who Leave Belongings Behind

Choosing better-quality renters can help Seattle investors avoid situations where residents leave belongings behind after leaving the property. Quality renters understand the lease agreement and value your property (and their own stuff)! They are less likely to break a lease or leave things in your rental when it's time to move out at the end of a lease term. 

A thorough screening process helps investors enjoy better renters. Our Seattle property management team can review the history of potential renters and find out if they have a pattern of leaving stuff behind or breaking leases without notice.

Let a Property Manager Handle What's Left Behind 

Depending on the situation and the items left behind, investors benefit from expert help. You might be able to sell some abandoned property, but make sure you consult a lawyer and involve a professional Seattle property management company before taking action. 

Real Property Associates has the experience to handle any renter situation. We'll make sure abandoned items don't impact your income or the search for your next resident! Learn more about protecting your property with a free copy of our Guide to Protecting Your Investments!

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