What to do If Tenant Leaves Personal Property Behind After Eviction in California

Updated on 5/21/24

So what happens after you have won your eviction and you now have legal possession of your property? The first thing most landlords do is go inspect it. But what happens when you find the tenant leaves belongings behind, such as furniture, clothes, electronics etc.?

What to do If Tenant Leaves Personal Property Behind After Eviction in California

I bet one of the first things that comes flying across your mind is to just put it all in a dumpster! That would definitely be the easiest solution, but unfortunately, it isn’t the correct – nor the legal – thing to do. Let’s go over step by step what you as a landlord need to do if an evicted tenant left possessions behind.

Asses abandoned property left behind by tenants

One of the first things you have to do is to asses the abandoned personal property. This can easily be done by making a detailed inventory list of the items left behind.

For residential properties, if the items are valued at less than $700.00 then the items can be deemed as trash and disposed of. When trying to calculate value, yard sale type pricing applies. Taking pictures of the tenant’s abandoned belongings is a good idea in case there is a dispute later.

If the total of the items left behind is valued at over $700.00, then you need to follow a different procedure.

Notice of belief of abandonment

The landlord should first determine if the tenant’s personal property has indeed been left behind by the tenant through a notice of right to reclaim abandoned personal property on the unit and mail to their last known address. You can also personally deliver it to the tenant. The notice needs to state that you will keep their belongings for 18 days if mailed, or 15 days if hand delivered. Here are some points the notice should cover.

  • Description of the items
  • Location where the items will be kept
  • Time frame for the tenant to reclaim property
  • Explain that the tenant must cover the costs of storage and transportation if they wish to recover their items
  • A statement saying items will be disposed of or sold if the tenant doesn’t claim them in the time frame specified.

Related: Types of California Eviction Notices

Storing tenants personal property left behind

Next, you need to move the belongings to a safe and secure location such as storage. We recommend waiting 2 days after sending the notice in case the tenant decides to come pick it up right away. If this is the case, the tenant can remove their belongings with no additional costs to them within the 2 days.

What if the tenant reclaims their personal property?

If the tenant responds within the notice period, they must be allowed to reclaim their property. The tenant might have to pay the cost of storage and any moving expenses incurred by the landlord.

Unclaimed Tenant Personal Property

Once the given time frame has expired and they have not claimed the property, you must advertise a public sale in the newspaper once a week for two consecutive weeks and hire an auctioneer. You can use the proceeds to cover costs of storage, advertising and transportation but must turn over any money left over to the treasury of the county where the tenant then has 1 year to reclaim their money. Even if they owe you money for rent, damages, etc, you must turn the funds over to the proper municipality. There are companies that offer a service that handles this process for you as it can be very tricky.

If you believe the personal property left behind by the tenant are over $700.00, we recommend consulting an attorney as the process is very precise and if not handled properly can cause additional legal issues, lawsuits etc.

There are different rules for commercial property (meaning you rented to a business and not for residential purposes.) For Commercial property left behind the process is similar the difference is that the dollar amount for value of items left behind is $2500.00 or equal to one month’s rent whichever is greater.