Tenant Abandons Property (Not Paid Rent, Disappeared)- How to Handle?

Tenant abandons property and disappeared without paying rent. What should you do now? Should you move on and find a new tenant for your property? No matter how badly you want to mitigate your losses, you just can’t rent your abandoned property immediately unless you want to face legal troubles.. 


When a tenant abandons property, a landlord is required to take a legal course. You simply can’t take the possession of your property back immediately even though you are certain that this tenant has left permanently.  


Worry no more and we are covering how to handle tenants abandoning your rental property, regain full control of your property and recover your losses.

When is Rental Property Considered Abandoned? 

The first and foremost step is to understand how long before something is considered abandoned according to the abandonment laws. Abandonment laws vary from state to state. 


In a nutshell, a rental property is considered abandoned if it is unoccupied for at least 15 days without notice. However, a 15 day abandoned property is still not concrete enough for you to take possession of your abandoned property. You need to collect substantial evidence to support your claim that your property is actually abandoned. 


It is not uncommon for a tenant to disappear or abandon your property if they are falling behind on their rent payments or have trouble paying the rent. Sometimes in situations like these, tenants do not want to deal with the legal hassle of breaking the lease and getting into the legal eviction proceedings. But there can be cases where your tenant has not really abandoned your property and it can be a


  • Medical Emergency
  • Tenant is on a long holiday
  • Running away from some unwanted situation
  • Tenant has been Kidnapped
  • Has been Arrested and facing jail time
  • Death

How To Ensure Abandonment by Tenant?

You need to ensure  that your tenant has moved out and abandoned your property. Once you ensure the abandonment by the tenant, you are required to establish it to regain full control on your property. 


Understanding legal requirements to establish abandonment is important as ending the lease or filing the eviction suit can backfire. You may be caught under doing wrongful eviction if your tenant hasn’t really abandoned your property. Better establish that the tenant has actually left and abandoned your rental property by following these steps.

Steps To Ensure Tenant Abandoning Your Rental Property


  • Communication

Communication is the best resort to any problematic situation. When you believe your property has been abandoned, your first resort is to contact your tenant`s emergency contacts. Contact them and try to know the whereabouts of your tenant.  

The second step in this line is to check with the neighbors if they have noticed anything significant, something that can concrete that the tenant has moved out permanently like a moving truck. Or any activity which confirms the absence of the tenant. 

You can also make a visit to the post office to check whether there is any recent request by the tenant for change of address.


Try to contact as many references as you can like their employer or so on, provided by the tenant on the rental application at the time of moving in.


  • Check For Utilities

Check with the utility company whether your tenant has requested for shutting down the utilities. Alternatively, give your tenant a 24 hour notice to enter  and check the same by yourself. 

It is better you enter the property and check for any signs that point towards the tenant permanently moving out of the property. Document everything and prepare visual evidence when you enter the property . 


Legal Requirements To Establish Abandonment

  • The tenant defaults the rent payment for X days depending on which state your rental property is and indicates their intention of not resuming their tenancy through either their words or action. 

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How To Reclaim Your Abandoned Rental Property?- Landlord Rights

Haven’t heard from your tenant after you have sent the belief of abandonment letter? It’s time to reclaim your property back and get a writ of possession. 


Under normal circumstances, a landlord needs to file an unlawful detainer or an eviction suit in the court to regain the possession of the property. But in case of abandonment, a landlord can terminate the lease and get a writ of possession without the need of going through the eviction route. 


You will make reasonable efforts to re-rent the property. The tenant is responsible for rent for the pending period till the property is re-rented or the actual time period the lease is supposed to be expired. You can use the tenant’s security deposit to mitigate your losses.  


Also Read: What if Security Deposit Not Enough To Cover Damages?

We strongly suggest working with a professional attorney in case you suspect your property has been abandoned. Every state has its own regulations when it comes to abandonment and doing something which you aren’t sure of can land you in legal trouble.

What About Tenant Abandoned Property/ Belongings?

You just can’t dispose of or sell your tenant’s belongings immediately after you regain possession of your property. There are certain rules you have to follow to handle tenant abandoned property. 


Every state has different regulations when it comes to handling tenant’s abandoned personal property. In general, the landlord must send a notice to the tenant to be able to claim their personal belongings within 10-18 days, based on your state. After which it will be either disposed of or will be sold. 


The tenant shall bear the cost of storage of their belongings. And, if the tenant doesn’t claim their belongings, dispose of them if the cost is less than $300. When you are selling the belongings, you should keep the proceeds from the sale for 12 months after adjusting for storage costs and advertising costs. Some states however require you to submit the proceeds to the county. 


Read: State Wise Regulations on Tenant Abandoned Belongings

Abandonment Clause In Your Lease


Lease is the most powerful tool of the rental business during the times of need. You can avoid legal conflicts when your lease has all the required provisions for situations like these. Consider adding this abandonment clause in your lease. 


If at any time during the lease period, the tenant abandons the premise or its part for the minimum period set by the state laws while the rent is outstanding for a period more than ___ days, thereof, the landlord may at its option will terminate the lease, enter the premise and obtain the possession of the premise by the manner prescribe under the law. 


Landlord may at its discretion may relet the premise or its part for the unexpired term and collect the rent for such reletting and the tenant will be liable for cost of reletting and the difference of rent for this unexpired period.  


Any tenant`s personal belongings left on the property will be deemed as abandoned and in this case, the landlord will dispose of such belongings in a manner described under the law. 

This question was asked by one of our readers Horatio Bennett. We believe, Horatio, that we are able to answer your questions and be able to help you with your situation.

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