We all dislike clutter. It gives a sense of an area being a mess, disorganized and dirty. As a landlord for more than 10 years, nothing drives me crazier then after a tenant moves out, whether on their own or by eviction, then when they leave a mess behind.
What might look like garbage and worthless stuff to you, are the tenants belongings. For that reason you must protect yourself and follow the law when it comes to getting rid of what is left behind.
You need only sit in on one television session of Judge Judy and see how amazing it is that the same items a tenant left behind are worth thousands of dollars when they come back to get it and find out you threw it away.
For that reason, and the sake of avoiding the headache of going to court, protect yourself. There are laws set up in most states for both landlords and tenants. These laws are put into place to avoid situations such as the one I described above.
Although I personally have owned rentals in 4 different states, I am more experienced in New Jersey, so I can speak from that vantage point. In the state of New Jersey, the last time I checked, the tenant has 30 days to retrieve any items they left behind. However with that said, it is not 30 days from the day they move out, it is 30 days from the date you file the paperwork that the tenant moved out.
In Trenton, NJ where I have owned a number of rentals, you need to fill out a form that shows the date the tenant moved out, and list any items they may have left behind. It is in your best interest as a landlord to file this paperwork. Also, it is a good time to take pictures of the items, although that is for your benefit and does not have to be filed with the paperwork.
Failure to file this paper leaves you open for a tenant to come back and make outlandish claims as to what they left behind. Youd be surprised as to how many tenants leave behind plasma TVs and Rolex watches. Do not leave yourself open to a headache that can be avoided with a little more than a half an hour of your time.
In Trenton, once the 30 days has lapsed, you can basically do whatever you want with it. I normally donate it to charity, and that is the Gods honest truth. If I kept all the stuff left behind by tenants, I would have no room in my own house. I know some landlords sell things on eBay, etc, but I just dont have the time for that. Youll have to check to see what your area allows and then decide what is right for you.
If you havent experienced a tenant leaving things behind yet as a landlord, eventually you will. When it happens you want to make sure you do things the right way to avoid any headaches that might arise. The best place to start is to contact your local housing director, city housing authority or city housing inspection department and get an exact law as to how your area handles it. If those departments do not have the answer, contact the court office that handles evictions in your area, they are sure to have the answer as well.
Most importantly, do it the right way, with the right paperwork, and you are to avoid any problems. The fewer headaches you have as a landlord, the more success you will have.