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tenant moved out but did not turn in keys? What to do?

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Latest post Mon, Apr 16 2007 8:40 PM by laiels8731. 4 replies.
  • Mon, Apr 16 2007 2:40 PM

    tenant moved out but did not turn in keys? What to do?


    Tenants official move out date per the written notice was Apr 11. (Actually the tenant did not give us notice, we gave them 90 day notice that we were ending their tenancy....the 90 day notice was because they are a Housing Assisted tenant and the Fair housing department requires 90 days for these kinds of tenants).

    Anyways, the tenants moved out but never turned in the keys. In addition, they did not leave any contact information so we have no way of reaching them. In addition they also left a few things (a children's desk, a box of cookware, and some blankets). It's been 5 days and they haven't been back to claim their remaining items. I assume that they are just abandoning the remaining items, but obviously don't know for sure.

    Not quite sure what we can do in a situation like this. Since the tenants never returned the keys, are they legally still in possession of the then they are responsible for any subsequent rent until they return the keys? Or can we just consider their tenancy ended, throw out their stuff and begin preparing the apartment for re rental? Any advice is appreciated.
  • Mon, Apr 16 2007 2:49 PM In reply to

    • Drew
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Thu, Mar 30 2000
    • PA
    • Posts 51,431

    re: tenant moved out but did not turn in keys? What to do?

    Absent a formal surrender some of this stuff falls into a bit of a grey area. And generally its wise as a LL to overcover your tail a bit.

    I as a LL might suggest that you secure the unit with new locks and remove th estuff to some safe location. I'd probably post a notice on the unit and mail one to lask know address, even if its that address, saying in effect, that you for you return of unit, if this is in error here is number where I can be reached for new key, you stuff is being held, please call me to get mutually convenient return-do it twise, make it clear that if you don't hear in 10 days you will charge a storage fee of say $15 a day to store the stuff .

    I do not know CA law as to security deposits but in my state tenant must provide new address for that time meter to run--but I'd pay attention to any CA laws as to final accounting--even if letter gets delivered timely to old address. What you don't want is a tenant back after 2 weeks and a claim as to failure to return deposit because you missed some statutory deadline to answer tenant about damages and unpaid rents....

  • Mon, Apr 16 2007 3:06 PM In reply to

    re: tenant moved out but did not turn in keys? What to do?

    So does this mean that the tenant is still in legal possession and is thus liable for subsequent rent? In reality, we would rather just consider the tenant done with and begin preparing it for re rental. But if the tenant is still in legal possession, then I guess we couldn't begin that process. At what point...(assuming we don't get the keys back and are unable to make contact with the tenants) can we begin the rerental process?
  • Mon, Apr 16 2007 3:46 PM In reply to

    • CA LL
    • Top 150 Contributor
    • Joined on Sat, Dec 16 2006
    • Posts 343

    re: tenant moved out but did not turn in keys? What to do?

    If the tenant vacated without being locked out by the Sheriff, a Notice of Belief of Abandonment must be mailed to the tenant's last known address and the tenant is given 18 days to claim the property. During this time period, the Landlord is obligated to store the property in a safe place, either in the rental unit or a storage facility. If the tenant shows up to claim the property, reasonable storage charges can be demanded, but it is usually not worth the Landlord's trouble to pursue the matter since most Landlords simply want to end all dealings with the tenant. Under no circumstances may the Landlord hold the tenant's property hostage by demanding that the tenant pay past due rent or other charges. This could trigger a lawsuit by the tenant for conversion (stealing) his or her property. Always take an inventory of the personal property and take pictures or a video tape of the items.

    If the property appears to have a fair market value of less than $300, then it can be disposed of by the Landlord after the 15 or 18 day period. If the property is worth more than $300, the Landlord must auction the property through a public sale. The notice of the time, date and place of the auction must be published in a newspaper of general circulation once per week for two consecutive weeks. The auction can then take place five days or more after the last notice was published.

    So..I would remove the items to safely store somewhere, begin preparation of the unit to re-rent including changing the locks and wait it out the 18 days to be safe. I personally would ALSO POST this notice on the door as well as mail it.

    That being have some other options to look at first. Contact their Section 8 case worker, explain the situation and ask for contact info and/or for them to contact and then followup in a few days. This ON TOP OF the formal process above. Also use info on application to try cell numbers, contacts, etc.

    Almost 30 years ago I was "framed" by a horrible tenant who left some TRASH in a locked garage. After two weeks we busted off the lock (they left apartment totally empty and had moved at end of notice) and threw away the trash...they filed suit. There are "serial" tenants out there that do this. Most likely they could care less and just left "junk" behind but you need to be safe rather than sorry. Take pictures of every item you remove to store and make an dated inventory. Be sure to look for their keys in weird places in the unit, under the mat, in kitchen drawers, etc. As far as charging rent for this is "gray" in the courts..usually only works to THREATEN such to GET the keys back (which you should do through case worker, cell phone, contacts) but not in actual practice...
  • Mon, Apr 16 2007 8:40 PM In reply to

    re: tenant moved out but did not turn in keys? What to do?

    Thanks so much for the info. Can someone here recommend other resources (either online or physical publications) that would be useful for landlords? I know about and have the California's landlord and tenant guide that they publish. But that guide is rather sparse if I do say so myself.
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