What To Do When A Tenant Leaves Stuff Behind

A tenant moving out of your property can be relatively time-consuming and stressful even in the best circumstances. It can take a lot of work to complete all the move-out procedures, clean & repair the unit, re-list the rental, and find and screen potential tenants.

When a tenant leaves their belongings in the unit, it can cause even more work and stress than you were expecting. It can be tempting to carry everything out to the dumpsters and move on with the long list of tasks you need to do before you can get a new renter.

What you may not know is that there are laws that govern how landlords must handle property that the tenant leaves behind. Before you do anything with the tenant’s abandoned property make sure to check your state and local laws so that you don’t end up in trouble down the road.

Even if you aren’t currently dealing with this problem, it’s important for you to be familiar with the laws surrounding this complex issue so that you don’t act without thinking in the future and end up in expensive legal trouble.

Here are some basic guidelines for how to deal with property that a tenant left behind in your rental unit. But remember that every area has different laws, so it is critical that you are familiar with your local laws before doing ANYTHING with the tenant’s belongings.

Consider Why the Tenant Left

  • Lease Ended: most states allow the landlord to dispose of anything that a tenant left behind once the lease term has ended
  • Termination of Lease by Landlord: if the tenant’s lease was terminated or the lease period shortened by the landlord, most states allow you to dispose of anything left behind once the termination date passes as long as the tenant moved out on time
  • Eviction or Tenant Leaves without Notice: in these cases, you may be responsible for making sure that the tenant gets any property that they left behind

If a tenant leaves without notice, they may still have rights to property left behind, so you always need to check local laws to determine your responsibility.

Take an Inventory

Many states will require the landlord, property owner, or property manager give the tenant legal notice before disposing of their abandoned belongings. In order to effectively give this notice, you need to document everything that the tenant left behind.

Important: We highly recommend bringing a third party with you when inventorying and moving the belongings to protect yourself from any fraudulent damage charges.

Include the estimated value of the property and images of each item left in your inventory. You will need to have this for legal purposes and also to send to the tenant when you send them a notice about pickup.

In the event that any potentially valuable property is left behind (this can include locked items which you should not open), it may be best to get a lawyer involved just to make sure that you are handling the situation and the property correctly.

There are 2 types of items that are handled differently than other abandoned items: motor vehicles and property fixtures. If a tenant leaves any type of motor vehicle on the property, this is considered an abandoned vehicle and you should contact the local police department to deal with it. If a tenant has made modifications to the property (i.e. new light fixtures, built-ins), these become your property when they move out.

Give the Tenant Notice

Most states require that you send a notice to the tenant before you are able to dispose of any of the abandoned property.

You should make a reasonable effort to get in contact with the tenant. Send certified mail with a delivery receipt or have the notice delivered by hand. Depending on your local laws, you may be required to attempt to deliver the notice to the tenant a certain number of times.

There are online templates that can help you write the notice, but you should be sure to include the following:

  • Inventory of all items (take and include photos of everything)
  • Estimated value of each item
  • Location where the property will be held until they come to pick it up
  • Deadline for retrieval (this will be mainly dictated by state and local laws)
  • Charge for storing the property
  • What will happen to their things if they don’t pick them up during the retrieval period

Item Care and Storage

Obvious trash can usually be removed without checking with the tenant or following any procedures. This would include bags of garbage, expired perishable food, and other items that are clearly garbage. Any expenses incurred for cleaning trash from the unit can be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.

For all other abandoned property (all of the items that you have already inventoried!), you are responsible for storing the tenant’s belongings safely for the retrieval period. You are responsible for this property during the retrieval period until they pick it up, so you want to make sure that nothing gets damaged.

It is not required that property be kept in the unit, but it must be kept somewhere secure until the tenant has the opportunity to pick it up. When you’re moving the tenant’s belongings, bring a neutral third party with you to help protect yourself from any potential damage claims.

Remove the Items

Hopefully, the tenant will claim the property and make arrangements with you to come pick it up. State and local laws will dictate how quickly you are required to make the items available for pickup. Before the tenant comes to pick up their property, make sure you know the costs of storing and moving the belongings so that you can make sure that you are paid before you give them access to their stuff.

If the tenant doesn’t claim the property in the retrieval period, be sure to check local laws before you start property disposal. Some areas may require that all of the abandoned items be turned over to the state, while others may allow you to do as you wish with all of the property that was left behind.

How to Avoid This Situation

  • Add a clause about abandoned property in your rental agreement. This may include information about a disposal fee for removing trash and other items from the property after the tenant moves out, and can also include information about what is considered abandoned property and how it will be handled.
  • Send a move out notice to tenants with all move-out requirements and a reminder to take everything with them when they leave. Sometimes something as simple as this is all it takes to encourage a tenant to take all their things with them.

Hiring a property manager can help you to deal with these issues in a professional and painless way. Property managers are experienced in dealing with these situations, are familiar with their local laws, and will handle the tedious work associated with abandoned items for you.

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Making Your Rental Rideshare Ready

The sharing economy is growing and more people than ever are using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to get around. The number of people using these services has doubled since 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down. Property owners and managers need to be aware of this growing trend and update their properties and services to support the lifestyles of current and potential renters.

Designated Rideshare Pickup Spots

Keeping up with the growing rideshare trend doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Many larger apartment communities are creating designated rideshare pickup/drop-off locations on their properties.  These designated spaces make it easier for your tenants to arrange meeting places with their drivers and help to manage where drivers are parked and waiting for people on your property. Designated spots help assure that they aren’t waiting in a no parking area or sitting in another tenant’s assigned parking spot.

To set up a pickup site on your property, use paint and signage to indicate specific parking spots. Signage should include the different rideshare logos and a parking time limit. This can be set up for a relatively low cost, but shows your tenants that you understand their needs.

In some bigger cities, property owners are exploring the possibility of cutting down parking lot sizes because so many of their tenants are using rideshare services instead of owning cars. This may not be a reality for most owners, but it’s something to keep on your radar for the future.

Rideshare App Integration

Gen Z is a large and growing population of renters that come to the table expecting digital solutions. As a group, they are interested in companies that understand them and their needs.

Consider integrating the Uber app into your community website to both provide a service to your renters and to attract potential renters by showcasing that you are in step with their lifestyle. The will be programmed with the location of your designated pickup spot so your tenants won’t have to communicate where to meet their drivers.

Including the Uber app on your website makes your property look innovative and modern to potential renters. When they are deciding on properties to look at, this could be one of the details that convinces them to look at your property over others.

How to Write a Rent Increase Letter

Raising rent is a normal and necessary practice for property managers, but it’s important to make sure that it’s handled correctly. You always want to make sure that you are complying with your state and local guidelines for rent increases before you take any other steps.

A rent increase letter gives your tenant notice of an upcoming increase in their rent. Typically they are sent out to tenants with at least 60 days notice of the increase, but again, you need to check with your state and local regulations to make sure that you’re compliant with all rent increase laws.

Renters have a lot of protections when it comes to rent increases, so you want to make sure that you’re doing things by the book.

Some Protection Renters Have

Landlords Must Provide Written Notice

In order to increase rent, landlords have to provide written notice within a certain number of days prior to the increase. This is typically 30-60 days, but laws vary from state to state, so check your local laws.

Rent Cannot be Increased During the Lease Term

The rent agreed to in the lease can only be changed at the end of the lease term before a new lease is signed.

Rent Increase Must be Reasonable

Rent increases need to be considered reasonable based on the current rental market. You don’t want to lose tenants either, so make sure that you are mindful when raising rent.

Once you are familiar with the laws and have decided that you want to raise the rent on your property, you want to write a clear and professional letter informing your tenants of the increase.

Make sure to include these elements when drafting your rent increase letter:

  • Date Letter is Written
  • Landlord’s Full Name, Address, Phone Number, and Email
  • Property Address
  • Tenant’s Full Name
  • Date rent Increase will Go into Effect
  • Current Rent Amount
  • New Rent Amount

Raising rents is a normal part of property management and it doesn’t have to cause you stress. If you make sure that you’re familiar with your local laws and handle all communications professionally you will be able to painlessly increase your tenant’s rent.

 

Companion Animals

A prospective tenant is requesting accommodations for their service animal, but you have a strict “No Pet” policy, what do you do? How do you make sure that you are in compliance with The New Mexico Service Animal Act and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? What are the different types of service animals and why does that matter? Can you deny a request? Can you charge a fee? Here we will take a look at these questions and make sure that you are in compliance with the law.

New Mexico Service Animal Act and the ADA

The New Mexico Service Animal Acts states that public accommodations must allow your “qualified service animal” to accompany you. A “qualified service animal”, is a service dog or service miniature horse that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The laws specifically exclude emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy animals, which are defined as animals that accompany people with disabilities, but do not perform work or tasks for them and do not accompany them at all times.

The ADA states that a service animal is a dog or miniature horse that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Examples of service animals that must be allowed are hearing dogs, guide dogs, psychiatric service animals, and allergen alert animals.

Types of Service Animals

According to the USA Service Dog Registration, there are 4 specific types of service animals and depending on the type of service animal the tenant has, effects their right under federal and state legislation.

1.“ Emotional support animal”, “comfort animal” or “therapy animal” means an animal selected to accompany an individual with a disability that does not work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability and does not accompany at all times an individual with a disability;

2.”Qualified service animal” means any qualified service dog or qualified service miniature horse that has been or is being trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability; but “qualified service animal” does not include a pet, an emotional support animal, a comfort animal or a therapy animal;

3.”Qualified service dog” means a dog that has been trained or is being trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and

4.” Qualified service miniature horse” means a miniature horse that has been trained or is being trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Can You Charge Extra

No. The New Mexico Service Animal Act states “A person shall not be required to pay any additional charges for the qualified service animal, but may be liable for any damage done by the qualified service animal; provided that persons without disabilities would be liable for similar damage”

Can You Ever Deny a Request

Yes. If a service animal poses a direct threat of significant harm to the health or safety of others. Lastly, remember that the ADA prohibits you from asking questions about their disability, as well as, demanding to see certification or other proof of the service animal’s training or status. If it is not apparent to you what the service animal is for, you may ask whether it is a service animal, and what work or task(s) it has been trained to perform.

Presenting A Rental

If you think you’re ready to market your rental unit to potential renters, think again. It’s a good idea to take a little inventory on how you will debut your investment to the perfect tenant. Although you may have a suitable rental unit available, sometimes it takes a little boost in presentation to seal the deal. A few small touches can make the difference between you collecting monthly rent fast or letting the unit sit for months unoccupied. Here are some staging tips you need to know to make your rental outshine the rest.

Curb Appeal

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. When it comes to rental units, the outside can be a deal maker or breaker. The first impression of your rental should bring nothing but good vibes. Power wash the driveway and siding of the home to ensure it looks clean and fresh. Mow the lawn and trim the bushes so that the house can become the focal point. Repaint chipped or dull paint to make the colors pop in the eyes of potential renters. Be sure to wash the windows to remove dirt so that they are easy to see out of. The first impression of your rental should bring nothing but good vibes.

Clean Clean Clean

The cleanliness of your rental will play a direct role on how fast the unit is rented. Showing a dirty rental to potential renters is a waste of time and energy. A renter wants to know that you care about your property and are willing to take care of it. Cleaning the unit is an effective way to show that you care about your investment. Whether you do it yourself or have the professionals do it, cleaning the unit from top to bottom is a must; no exceptions.

Make it Neutral

Everyone has their own style. You want a potential renter to come into your vacancy and feel as if they can make it a home of their own. The best way to show the warmth of a lived-in space while exhibiting a blank canvas is to use neutral colors and style. Avoid gender specific pieces in the décor. Keep everything in the middle of the spectrum so that potential renters can envision how they will make themselves at home.

Renters Insurance

As a property owner, there is no doubt that you want to secure your investment by purchasing the necessary insurance on your own behalf. There is a myriad of things that could go wrong that you would be held liable for otherwise. However, what about being held liable for something that occurred in one of your units that a tenant is at fault? Even if no one plays the blame game, can you guarantee rent will
be collected if your tenant is sued for everything they are worth? The best way to ensure a little peace of mind is to require your tenants to have renter’s insurance. Here are a few reasons why it is important to make renters insurance apart of your lease agreement.

A Little Bit Goes A Long Way
The great thing about renter’s insurance is that for a low cost, property and liability will be covered in the event of an accident or occurrence. Renter’s insurance covers perils like fire, explosion, lightning, and theft. If someone is hurt in a tenant’s unit, renter’s insurance can help cover the cost of bodily injury or property damage while in the unit. In many cases, renter’s insurance can be added to an existing personal auto policy.

See Where They Are Financially
If your potential tenants are finding it hard to grasp the concept of required renter’s insurance, it may be time to reconsider the tenant. Renter’s insurance is a security blanket for both parties to aid in the event of loss or injury. This low-cost insurance should not make or break the budget of a renter. If a tenant cannot handle a small change in the monotony, can they afford to rent your unit?

Covered Deductible
Did you know that the renter’s insurance policy of your tenant can cover your policy’s deductible? In the unfortunate event that a tenant damages your building, your policy may cover the damage, but you will have to foot the bill for the deductible if your tenant has no insurance. Although any accidental
damage can be an inconvenience, the benefit of a covered deductible can help to ease the blow.

Leasing Season

Rental leasing season is upon us so it’s time to get your properties up to speed and ready for new tenants. Did you know that May through September are when most renters are on the prowl for new digs? Schooling, weather, and the end of tax season may play a huge role in when tenants are looking to make a move and sign on the dotted line. Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure that your property stands out above the rest. Here a few ways to make your properties shine during leasing season.

Clean it Up
Now is the time to ensure your team is ready to get to work. Your cleaning crew will need to be on deck to clean move-outs promptly. The landscaping team will have to keep the grounds in tip top shape to help attract new tenants to the property. Now is also a good time to make the necessary repairs and cosmetic upgrades to units so they are in optimum shape for new tenants. Showing a little extra TLC during this time can help to fill those vacancies faster.

Price it Right
Now that your units are ready, it’s time to review pricing. Do some quick research to find out what similar units are going for in the area. Rental prices can drift from year to year so it’s important to stay current to make sure the price is right. Rental specials can sweeten the pot for new potential tenants. A rent that is too high will scare prospective tenants away. Talk with owners about pricing so that everyone is on the same page to create the best outcome so that everyone wins.

Be Prepared
Leasing season may bring higher traffic through your offices. Take the time before the season begins to make sure all paperwork and policies are up to date. Get any extra filing done that may be piling up. Have a strong, experienced office staff in place to handle the higher volume of inspections, screening, marketing, and prospect follow-ups.