This is a very common problem. I would suggest that you document ALL efforts to provide notice. I would send WRITTEN communications indicating specific time frames for retrieval of the items and a statement that they will be disposed of, after a set date. I would give no less than 30 days for the person to comply. If there are any particularly valuable items, I might even take more precautions.
You are required to act as the reasonable person would, under these circumstances. Because "reasonable" is often in the eye of the beholder, I would act with caution. Otherwise, you could be held responsible for up to triple damages, if a judge determines that you converted the items.
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Good question, and it would be helpful if the law provided a specfic answer, but in MIchigan there is no statute which gives us an answer. The other attorney's advice was helpful.
This answer is for discussion purposes only and will not be considered legal advice. Further, a court could potentially decide the question contrary to my answer.
I agree with Mr Frederick , notify with some for of confirmation, state they have thirty days and it will be considered abandoned. Then call st, Vincent de Paul. No matter what, do not be stupid with valuable items.
To the PROSPECTIVE client, please call myself or another attorney for your choice with more detaiils and an appointment. My PRELIMINARY answer to your question(s) is for general purposes and based upon what little information you have conveyed. It is based on such limited information that the general answer should never be relied as a reason for your action or inaction. My response does NOT establish an attorney-client relationship and such may only be established by mutual agreement, and the signing of a written retainer agreement, which will generally require payment for our services, as this is what we do for a living and, just like you, we must get paid for our work.. .
It depends if the roommate was on the lease, is still on the lease, had a lease with you, etc. There maybe a landlord tenant relationship which can create obligations for you and rights for the former roommate. In any event, you probably have an ethical obligation to preserve the property and go beyond a few emails to resolve the matter. Check with a landlord-tenant lawyer to be sure. As a practical matter, the risk here is all yours, so get it right because it's in your best interest. Good luck, it sounds like you will do the right thing; you inquiry here is a good start.