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Landlord’s Responsibility on Previous Tenant’s Personal Property Left Behind.

How to handle when personal property remains on the premises after a tenancy has terminated and the premises have been vacated by the tenant.

There are specific procedures and laws in place that a landlord must follow. Failure to follow the processes and procedures outlined in this article leaves the landlord vulnerable to a lawsuit by the tenant for the possessions that were left on the premises.

  • According to California Civil Code1980-1991, the landlord is required to give the previous tenant a written “Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property”.
    • This notice needs to notify the tenant that a reasonable costs of storage may be charged before the property is returned.
    • Where the property may be claimed and the date before which the claim must be made.
    • The date specified has to be not less than 15 days after the notice is personally delivered emailed, or mailed by  first-class mail and not less than 18 days after the notice is deposited in the mail.
    • The notice shall also contain ONE of the following statements:
      (1) “If you fail to reclaim the property, it will be sold at a public sale after notice of the sale has been given by publication. You have the right to bid on the property at this sale. After the property is sold and the cost of storage, advertising, and sale is deducted, the remaining money will be paid over to the county. You may claim the remaining money at any time within one year after the county receives the money.”
      (2) “Because this property is believed to be worth less than $700, it may be kept, sold, or destroyed without further notice if you fail to reclaim it within the time indicated above.”
  • If the previous tenant pays the reasonable cost of storage and takes possession of the property not later than the date specified in the notice then the landlord, at his option, can release the property.
  • If the personal property is not released and the notice stated that the items would be sold at a public sale, the landlord will release the personal property to the former tenant if he or she claims it prior to the time it is sold and pays the reasonable cost of storage, advertising, and sale incurred prior to the time the property is withdrawn from sale.
  • Please note, if the property remained in the dwelling and the former tenant reclaims the property within two days of vacating then the landlord has to release the personal property and can not require the former tenant to pay the cost of storage.

Disclaimer: This is a summary of the California Civil Code1980-1991. Please consult the code in full prior to taking any steps to remove personal possessions left by a former tenant. The full code can be found at, CIVIL CODE SECTION 1980-1991