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So a Tenant Disappeared... What Should You Do?

Late rent payments and forced evictions are problems that many landlords face. But when a landlord finds out that a tenant abandoned the rental, this creates a lot of legal hassle. Not to mention, a loss of income for a month or more. The reason is that landlords must first meet certain requirements before they can end the tenancy.

The big question is, what would be your next best steps when dealing with an abandoned property? In this guide, you’ll find the answers you seek.

Reasons Tenants Disappear and Common “Possible” Signs of Abandonment

Tenants abandon a rental for different reasons. A common reason is that they are behind on rent. Landlords may suspect an abandoned property when a tenant fails to pay rent usually for 15 days. Also, some tenants who break the lease want out and avoid facing legal consequences.

Neighbors usually notice the following (and these are possible signs that a tenant has left):

  • Unusual smells
  • Running water for days
  • Moving truck at the rental
  • An animal has been barking for days in the unit

Steps You Should Take

1. Establish abandonment

Don’t make assumptions yet. First, contact the tenant and make every effort to find out where he or she is. You’ll never know… your renter might just be dealing with a family emergency. Gather as much evidence as possible. Speak with your neighbors. Note times and dates that they mention. Visit the local post office to check whether there’s a change of address.

2. Speak with an attorney.

Because local rental regulations vary from state to state, it’s best to seek the advice of an attorney. This way, you get to follow a streamlined eviction process. Your attorney will guide you through the process of sending out a legal notice to the tenant’s last known address as well as filing the necessary documents to re-lease the property.

3. Do not enter the property without a solid reason.

Valid reasons to enter the abandoned rental include the following:

  • You’ve already provided proper notice
  • An animal was left inside the unit (but approach the authorities rather than handle this situation alone)
  • Emergency situations

When entering the unit, considering bringing a witness. This helps you avoid being accountable in case you’re accused of stealing items. Make sure to document by taking pictures of the items in the unit. These photos will show what their condition was during the abandonment.

4. Store the tenant’s personal items properly and send out a notice.

The tenant has the right to come and claim his or her personal belongings. Be sure to follow the laws of your state regarding handling belongings. Usually, you’ll be advised to store them, make a list or itemize the abandoned items, and notify the tenant about the belongings so he or she can come and get them back. 

If you don’t hear from the tenant for a certain period of time, you may be advised to dispose of the items, sell them to cover for the storage fee and issue the remaining money to the state. 

Related: What to Do When Tenants Leave Their Belongings Behind

Prevention is the Best Way to Avoid Abandonment Situations

Here at Landlord Prep, we emphasize the importance of a thorough tenant screening process. Making sure that you rent out to responsible and good tenants right from the start is the best means of avoiding unpleasant situations.

Run background checks. Speak with references and inquire about a tenant’s tendency of abandoning a unit.

It’s also great to establish rapport with neighboring property owners. They can report to you anything unusual that they notice in the unit. 

Learn More About Becoming a Successful Landlord...

Finally, I offer you the opportunity to take a complete DIY landlording course: Landlord Prep: Video E-Course and How-To Tutorials. Everything you need to know to become not just a landlord, but a successful landlord, is here.