What to do When a Tenant's Personal Property has Been Abandoned
California law has certain procedures which a landlord must follow to remove and dispose of personal property which has been abandoned by the tenant. To dispose of personal possessions which landlord reasonably believes has been abandoned, the landlord should take the following steps to avoid liability:
(1) Write a notice to the former tenant(s) and any other person(s) whom the landlord believes may be the owner of some or all of the abandoned property.
Pursuant to Civil Code Section 1983(b), the notice must: (1) Give enough information about the property so that the possible owner can identify it; (2) Tell the tenant or other possible owner receiving the notice the place where the property may be claimed; (3) Give the tenant or other possible owner a deadline after which time the property cannot be claimed; (4) Tell the tenant or other possible owner what the landlord intents to do with any of the property which is not claimed by the deadline; and (5) Tell the tenant or other possible owner whether reasonable costs of storage will be charged before the property is returned.
(2) Deliver the notice(s) to the tenants and other possible owners of the property.
(3) Meet with the tenant and other possible owners when and if they come to claim the abandoned property.
If by the deadline, the tenant or other person pays the landlord any properly demanded storage costs, the landlord must release the property to the tenant or the person who landlord reasonably believes to be its owner.
If, after the deadline, there is any property which was not claimed by the tenants or any other people notified by Landlord, depending on the circumstances, the landlord must do one of two things with the remaining property. If the landlord reasonably believes that the property is worth less than $300, he or she may keep it, give it away, sell it or destroy it. On the other hand, if the property is reasonably believed to be worth $300 or more, the landlord should arrange to have it sold at a public bidding sale after giving notice of the sale through publication. Both the landlord and the tenant have a right to bid on the property at the sale. After the property is sold, the landlord may deduct the costs of storage, advertising the sale, and conducting the sale.
Sample notices (one to a former tenant and one to a person other than a former tenant) can be found at the following link: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal\_guides/lt-5.shtml#endnote12