Can a Landlord Remove A Tenant’s Belongings?

Are you a landlord whose tenant has abandoned the property, but left a bunch of stuff in the unit? Or are you a tenant whose tenancy has ended, but you still have valuable items in the rental property that you haven’t gotten around to moving yet?

In either situation, you are likely wondering whether a landlord has the right to remove a tenant’s belongings.

In this article, I am going to answer this question and outline the situations where it is allowed as well as discuss the legal landscape around this issue.

If you have don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:

A tenant’s personal property belongs to them and a landlord normally has no right to remove it without authorization, except in limited circumstances. These typically include removal in the event of eviction, tenant abandonment, or lease termination. Landlords should provide notice of the upcoming removal and give tenants a chance to remove the items on their own.

Let’s get into it.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

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When Can A Landlord Throw Away a Tenant’s Belongings?

As mentioned above, there are three basic scenarios when a landlords may throw away a tenant’s belonging. We’ll discuss each of them in turn.

After Eviction Proceedings

A landlord has the right to force a tenant to leave the rental premises after an eviction. This includes removal of any tenant belongings, which often may be auctioned or thrown away.

Once final judgment is issued (usually in the form of a writ of possession), a landlord may arrange for the removal of any personal property remaining in the dwelling.

After Abandonment of Property

If a landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has vacated or abandoned the rental property, they may arrange for removal of any tenant belongings.

State and local laws may vary on the process for doing so, but as a general matter, a landlord must try to notify the tenant and give them an opportunity to remove the personal belongings on their own.

You can research your state and local laws to get a better sense of what the requirements are in your situation or you can contact a lawyer to help you figure all of this stuff out.

For your convenience, here’s our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenant laws of your state.

If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.

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If the Tenancy Has Otherwise Ended

If a tenancy has otherwise ended (usually due to the term expiring), then a landlord usually has the right to remove any belongings that have not been removed after the lease has ended.

Again, depending on your state and local laws, landlords may have to comply with notice and other requirements before they do so.

Why Can’t a Landlord Simply Throw Away a Tenant’s Belongings?

Rules exist to protect both landlord and tenant interests. In the event of a dispute between the landlord and tenant, there is often a temptation by the landlord to use “self-help” remedies, like changing the locks, shutting off utilities or throwing away belongings.

But the law frowns heavily on this type of behavior, so as a landlord you need to make sure you understand the rules of the game. The tenant’s personal property is not yours to remove at your whim just because it is located in your rental property.

The correct response by the landlord is to file an eviction proceeding if the circumstances warrant it or to file a lawsuit to try to resolve disputes relating to the tenancy that don’t warrant an eviction.

If you landlord simply tosses a tenant’s stuff out without following the law, they could be violating a number of laws. Here are some of the main ones.

Right to Privacy

Even though a landlord has legal title to the residence, this doesn’t permit them to throw away a tenant’s belongings without following the right process. Tenant’s have a right to a level of privacy which generally prevents them from even entering the premises without some form of notice and/or consent. 

Eviction Process Must Be Followed

Obviously, when a tenant has breached the lease, landlords can and do resort to eviction. 

That being said, the process must go through the court system. There are steps that need to be followed, such as providing notice of the eviction, a valid and legal reason for the eviction, and waiting for a response from the tenant. 

Then a hearing must be schedule and the landlord must wait for the court’s decision before they can remove items from the unit.  

If a landlord throws out a tenant’s property before the eviction is done, they may be opening themselves up to a complaint or lawsuit. 

Wrapping Up

So there you have it – a clear answer to whether a landlord can throw away a tenant’s belongings. Hope this has been helpful!.

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