If a tenant leaves behind personal property, the landlord is required by statute to send an "abandonment notice." The abandonment notice explains to the tenant that the property is considered abandoned and will be stored by the landlord for approximately eight days before it is conclusively presumed abandoned. The notice also explains the tenant’s right to claim the property and, if it is not claimed, that the property may be thrown away or sold at auction if it is valued at $1,000 or more.
If the abandoned personal property consists of a manufactured home, floating home or an R.V., the tenant has 45 days during which to claim the property. Lienholders also have the right to claim such property, and must be served with a copy of the abandonment notice. The abandonment notice also explains various other rights and responsibilities between the landlord and tenant with regard to the abandoned property.
Abandonment notices are highly technical in nature and must be properly drafted to avoid liability for improperly disposing of a tenant’s property. If a landlord does not comply with the abandonment statutes, he or she risks liability for up to twice the actual damages sustained by the tenant and may additionally face liability for any losses suffered by a lienholder or the county tax collector for unpaid personal property taxes. For this reason, it is highly advisable to retain the services of an attorney to prepare abandonment notices for any property left behind by a tenant.