Q: My renters moved out of a house I own in the middle of December. They left behind broken end tables and chairs and some other junk. The garage is also full of their junk. Most of these items were free, so there is really nothing of value. The renters left a phony address, and their telephone has been shut off. What should I do?
A: Under Minnesota law, if your tenants move out leaving personal items behind, the landlord may take possession of the tenants’ personal property, and must store and care for that property. It does not matter that your tenants’ items have no value. However, you then have a claim against your tenant for reasonable costs and expenses incurred in removing their property and storing and caring for it.
The law states you can sell or dispose of the property 28 days after you receive actual notice of the abandonment, or 28 days after it reasonably appears your tenants have abandoned the premises, whichever occurs last. If you sell the items, you may apply a reasonable amount of the proceeds of a sale to the removal, care and storage costs or to any security-deposit claims you may have against your tenants. Any remaining proceeds of any sale are paid to the tenant.
The law states that before the sale, a landlord must make reasonable efforts to notify the tenant of the sale at least 14 days prior to the sale, by personal service in writing or sending written notification of the sale by first-class and certified mail to the tenants’ last known address or usual place of residence, if known by the landlord. Notice of the sale also must be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises at least two weeks before the sale. If notification by mail is used, the 14-day period starts on the day the notice gets deposited in the United States mail.
In your case, it doesn’t sound like you’ll be able to sell any of the items left behind, but you should still give the 14-day notice that you will be disposing of the items. Take an inventory of their items, and pictures for your protection, and mail the inventory list, along with a letter stating that you will be disposing of their property in two weeks.
I would also post a notice on the outside of your rental house. Since they didn’t provide a good forwarding address, you should send the list and letter, by certified mail, to their last known address, which is your rental property. If you get the notice back, then keep it for your records, along with the pictures of the items they left behind. Then, if the tenants do show up later claiming they left valuable items behind and now want them back, you’ll have sufficient proof stating otherwise.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to email@example.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Provided information is not confidential.