Published May 21, 2021. Updated May 8, 2023.
As you grow your portfolio of Detroit investments, you will encounter a wide variety of situations with renters. One of them is when a resident disappears and leaves their belonging behind. While this might seem strange, it does happen — and investors need to be prepared.
Before listing the property, trying to sell the belongings, or calling local haulers to take them away, make sure you understand and follow the law (and the lease). Keep reading to learn four tips for how investors should handle property that renters leave behind in a rental.
1. Try Reaching Out to the Renter
When a renter moves out of your property, they should leave you with a forwarding address and contact information. When you discover that they left some items behind after move-out day, use this contact information to reach out and let them know.
Sometimes renters intentionally leave things behind to avoid moving them. If you find many items in the house, it may indicate that the tenant bolted out of your Detroit investment in a hurry. It's also possible they left some things in a closet or behind the door and simply overlooked them. Make an effort to connect with the former resident and reunite them with the items they left behind.
If connecting with the former resident proves futile, don't start selling items just yet. There's more you can do to handle discarded items appropriately.
2. Check (and Follow) the Lease Agreement
A well-crafted lease agreement should provide direction on what to do with property that a tenant leaves behind in your rental.
In Michigan, the state doesn't have written laws regarding disposing of or dealing with property that didn't move with the renter when they left. However, the lease agreement should outline how investors respond and what residents should expect if they move and don't take everything with them.
Include details in the lease about a timeframe covering how and when a renter moves out. Document how a tenant should confirm they have all of their belongings. Also, note how you will handle items they leave behind after you've tried unsuccessfully to contact them for item retrieval.
Consider the Options
If the tenant hasn't paid rent for a few months, and you've consulted a property manager and followed the lease, their left-behind belongings could provide an opportunity to recover some arrears for the unpaid months.
However, items left behind may vary, and you may have to treat abandoned property differently as follows:
Furniture and other personal items. In most cases, these are the items you will find when a renter disappears. You will need to get the total value of the items, store them safely, then trash, return, donate, or sell them after a legal amount of time. While inventorying each piece, remember to take photos of their condition to act as evidence in case of any damage claims.
Garbage. It's easy to deal with the garbage left in the rental unit! Throw away anything that qualifies as trash.
Fixtures. Depending on the lease rules, renters can install some things on the walls, such as bookshelves, light fixtures, and bookshelves. If they fail to remove them when moving out, the fixture becomes part of the rental unit. Still, if you decide to remove them, use the security deposit to cover the removal expenses.
Motor vehicles. No matter the state of the vehicle, you must involve local law enforcement to remove an abandoned car from your rental property. Cars can't be treated like other belongings because they typically fall under the category of personal property.
If dealing with left-behind items feels overwhelming, let a Detroit rental property management company take care of it for you! An experienced property manager knows the law and the best ways to remove abandoned property to protect your investments.
3. Consult a Lawyer
You can also consult a lawyer to help you evaluate the situation and advice on the best legal action to take on the belongings left behind. This way, you avoid a lawsuit if the former resident claims you withheld their items against their wishes.
If you're dealing with difficult tenants, you can let the lawyer and property manager handle the issue.
4. Look for a New Resident
As you deal with the items in your Detroit rental property, you're free to start looking for a new resident. While working through how to remove or store abandoned belongings, start preparing the unit for a new renter.
Acting quickly to start the makeready process and list the vacant rental helps minimize the potential of dealing with an extended vacancy after a resident moves out or bails on your rental property. Hiring a property manager can help you find quality tenants and minimize the potential for another sudden disappearance (or property full of abandoned furniture) in the future.
The best property manager has an effective screening process to find ideal renters for your properties and help you reach your Detroit real estate investing goals!
A Detroit Rental Management Company Handles Abandoned Property
Whether you have a few properties or a significant Detroit investment portfolio, you will encounter scenarios where a renter disappears and leaves some items behind. Follow the laws and the lease, and let Own It Detroit handle everything for you!
As seasoned real estate investment professionals, we have the right experience to handle any renter situation. We also move quickly to prepare rentals for new tenants and find quality renters fast.
Learn more about how we can help by reaching out to one of our property management professionals! Or, get our expert insights about protecting your rentals when you download a free copy of "Protecting Your Investment Property: A Guide."