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What to do if you believe your tenant has abandoned his/her unit?

Have you ever had a tenant abandon his/her unit? Did you ever wonder what to do?

California law provides a procedure that the owner or the property manager of the rental real property must follow before assuming that the rented property has been vacated and/or abandoned. The focus of this legal guide is on the procedure for regaining possession of abandoned real property. However, this article does not address the issue of recovery of damages by the owner.

If the landlord believes the rental property has been abandoned, the Landlord may give a Notice of Belief of Abandonment ("Notice") pursuant to Section 1951.3 of the California Civil Code.

The Landlord may give the Notice only if two conditions have been met: (1) the rent on the property has been due and unpaid for at least 14 consecutive days and (2) the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned the property (Cal. Civ. Code § 1951.3(b)). Following the procedure of section 1951.3 provides greater certainty to the owner and provides protection against a tenant who later sues the landlord for legal possession of the rental property.

The language to be provided in the Notice is provided in Cal. Civ. Code § 1951.3(d).

Assuming the landlord wishes to terminate the lease and rent it to another tenant, the date of termination of the lease specified in the Notice should be at least 15 days after the Notice is served personally or, if mailed, at least 18 days after the Notice is deposited in the mail (Cal. Civ. Code § 1951.3(b)).

The landlord’s Notice can be personally delivered to the tenant (if possible) or, in the alternative, it can be sent by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the tenant at his or her last known address (which may be the rental property address). If there is a reason to believe that the Notice sent to that address will not be received by the tenant (or will not be forwarded to a subsequent address), the landlord may also send he Notice to another address, if any, known to the landlord where the tenant may reasonably be expected to receive the Notice (e.g., a place of employment). (Cal. Civ. Code § 1951.3(c).)

Additional resources provided by the author

Please remember that this information is generic in nature and not intended as specific legal advice for your individual situation. This area is constantly changing so it is imperative that you always contact an attorney to seek legal advice.

Furthermore, you should contact a Real Estate Attorney in your specific jurisdiction.

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