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  1. #1
    duplexowner is offline Junior Member
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    (OH) How to dispose of Tenants' 'abandoned' property?

    What is the name of your state? OH

    I am a little confused about what to do with 'abandoned' property in ohio, specifally my tenants property left behind after breaking the lease early and moving out. Here are some facts of the circumstances.

    1. Tenants paid rent through Jan 31.
    2. Tenante left ~Jan 15, and confirmed to me via email they had moved out. (and not coming back) The email mentioned they left the keys with friends who were supposed to get the furniture before the end of the month.
    3. Feb 1 rolled around, I changed the locks and took back posession of the property.
    4. I have not received any inquiries about the property from the tenants or their friends.
    5. How can I dispose of the 'abandoned' property? Can I sell it to recover money they owe me?

    Right now, based on the facts of the case, I'm leaning towards selling it to recover damages. I believe the case can be made that the property is in fact abandoned, and without there being laws (state or local) to the contrary, I can sell it.

    Ohio law doesn't clearly delineate what to do with tangible personal property, only intangible property. in ORC 169 or something. Some cities municipal courts (in the court rules) require that during eviction you must pay to store the tenants possessions while other muni courts require that you schedule bulk trash pick-ups to 'properly dispose of" the set out property.

    Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions? When, how can I consider it truly abandoned?
    Last edited by duplexowner; 02-12-2008 at 07:48 PM. Reason: clarify whose property in title
  2. #2
    OHlandlord is offline Member
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    OH does not have a law on abandonment. You had better print out that e-mail that states he was out. The problem is that some judges here will not accept the e-mail as proof that he really is out. (Too easy to fake.) And the e-mail isn't definitive since he said they were coming back to get belongings. (They didn't come get the furniture nor turn in the keys by the time he said they would.) And now that you changed the locks on them, they can't get in to get that stuff. You have to be very careful in declaring abandonment in this state. Having only an e-mail and no keys is iffy. Still, the point is moot since you have already changed locks. Store their belongings for 30 days to be sure the tenant won't come looking for them. If you remove them from the unit, inventory and photograph the things, and store them in a safe place out of the weather. I'd also post a notice on the door that the place has been declared abandoned and they can claim their belongings by contacting you. (CYA so they can't claim you refused to allow them to retrieve their possessions.) Of course, keep a copy of this and any other notices. Chances are they won't show back up for the things.

    In future, prevent this by writing a definition of abandonment into your leases and have the tenants initial their agreement with it at signing. Then there is no question of whether it is abandoned. Most courts here will recognize abandonment as being at least 10 days late on rent, being unable to contact the tenant by written notice or phone, by inspection of the premises to verify occupancy (post 24 hour notice prior to entering & document lack of utilities, bed, TV, edible food, personal belongings -hygiene/clothes/etc.), a notice of abandonment posted on door declaring unit abandoned if not contacted by tenant within 7 days, and so forth. If you like, I'll e-mail you my abandonment clause.

    After 30 days, you can remove the belongings from the unit or from storage. Your best course of action is to claim that you disposed of it. But I know plenty of LLs that sell anything decent or donate it to a charity rather than toss out perfectly good things.
  3. #3
    duplexowner is offline Junior Member
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    OHlandlord - Thanks for your comments. I will definitely insert an abandoment clause in our new leases.

    I'm really trying to avoid moving/storing their property if at all possible. Here are some other circumstances regarding the above situation that may help my case, if I have to make one. Would any of this change your view?

    1. The utilities were all past due and scheduled to be shut off before the end of the month. They were placed back in our name to avoid reconnection fees.
    2. They shut the heat off when they left which resulted in a burst pipe. (neighbor heard spraying water & called me) I had to enter the property to repair the pipe and found it just about completely empty except for furniture and some small appliances and misc trash.
    3. Large/huge amounts of trash, personal belongsing, etc were placed out by the curb (which I subsequently had to have removed)
    3. Personal items left on the counter included receipts for one way plane ticket out of state and an employment contract to start work mid january.
    4. Their friends came over one day prior to Feb 1, took a few items, and left. I subsequently got a call from another tenant about some missing property that was stored in the common basement. When I went over to change the locks, I found the missing property just inside the door of the abandoned unit.

    I have significant evidence to indicate they abandoned the property with no plans whatsoever to return, but I'm not sure how to deal with them giving the keys to friends with plans for the friends to enter the unit (that had been abandoned) to retrieve the property. (and subsequently not retrieveing it) Any additonal thoughts? I'm really hoping to avoid moving/storing furniture.
  4. #4
    GatorLaw is offline Member
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    Ohio Statute

    Quote Originally Posted by duplexowner View Post
    . . . Can I sell it to recover money they owe me?
    OH ST 5321.15 Landlord of residential premises denied certain remedies

    (A) No landlord of residential premises shall initiate any act, including termination of utilities or services, exclusion from the premises, or threat of any unlawful act, against a tenant, or a tenant whose right to possession has terminated, for the purpose of recovering possession of residential premises, other than as provided in Chapters 1923., 5303., and 5321. of the Revised Code.

    (B) No landlord of residential premises shall seize the furnishings or possessions of a tenant, or of a tenant whose right to possession has terminated, for the purpose of recovering rent payments, other than in accordance with an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.

    (C) A landlord who violates this section is liable in a civil action for all damages caused to a tenant, or to a tenant whose right to possession has terminated, together with reasonable attorneys fees.
  5. #5
    acmb05 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by duplexowner View Post
    What is the name of your state? OH

    I am a little confused about what to do with 'abandoned' property in ohio, specifally my tenants property left behind after breaking the lease early and moving out. Here are some facts of the circumstances.

    1. Tenants paid rent through Jan 31.
    2. Tenante left ~Jan 15, and confirmed to me via email they had moved out. (and not coming back) The email mentioned they left the keys with friends who were supposed to get the furniture before the end of the month.
    3. Feb 1 rolled around, I changed the locks and took back posession of the property.
    4. I have not received any inquiries about the property from the tenants or their friends.
    5. How can I dispose of the 'abandoned' property? Can I sell it to recover money they owe me?

    Right now, based on the facts of the case, I'm leaning towards selling it to recover damages. I believe the case can be made that the property is in fact abandoned, and without there being laws (state or local) to the contrary, I can sell it.

    Ohio law doesn't clearly delineate what to do with tangible personal property, only intangible property. in ORC 169 or something. Some cities municipal courts (in the court rules) require that during eviction you must pay to store the tenants possessions while other muni courts require that you schedule bulk trash pick-ups to 'properly dispose of" the set out property.

    Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions? When, how can I consider it truly abandoned?
    Bonfire, roasted hot dogs and a keg of beer. Can you say Block Party.
  6. #6
    OHlandlord is offline Member
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    I'm afraid your post only muddies the water even more. The utilities (while past due) were still on in their name, the friends had come only one day prior to changing the locks to retreive belongings, furniture/appliances/personal items were still in the unit, and you changed the locks only one day after their rent had expired and before it was delinquent..

    My abandonment clause requires rent be 10 days delinquent, the utilities are off (but proof of scheduling off is fairly good in winter since the court can't expect you to let them go off), that you are unable to contact the tenant (have you tried e-mailing him, contacting his friends that were just there, calling him? Document this fact?), that personal belongings are removed (although a few small non-valuable items could remain), that an inspection be done (Did you document the condition of the unit?), that notice be posted allowing 7 days for the tenant to respond and counter my claim of abandonment - all before I change the locks. I hope he does not come back and counter your claim of abandonment. That is why I have tenants initial this clause. It shows that they knew and agreed to this definition of abandonment. They knew at lease signing that if the unit was left in this fashion it would be declared abandoned. It would be hard for them to counter abandonment in court when they knew from the beginning what constitutes it.

    The one way ticket is not relevent since anyone can buy a ticket one way, then buy another one way ticket back when they wish to return. It really isn't an indication that they will never return. The work contract will be good since it shows where you can reach them to get money due to you after this is over. Remember to charge him for the plumbing repair. You cannot turn the heat off to a unit in February in OH.

    While you can schedule a bulk trash pickup after a set out by the sheriff, this does not apply to abandonment. After an eviction and once set out by the sheriff, it is no longer your responsibility. I'm afraid you will have to store that property for 30 days and post a notice of abandonment on the door to allow them to retrieve it. Hopefully they will not return for it. You can store it in the unit while you clean/repair it. This is always a problem when a tenant abandons a unit in OH. Without an abandonment statute, it is always questionable. You might want to check your local court to see if they recognize a local definition of abandonment. (Some courts do.) If they do, make sure you include their definition of abandonment in your lease. Or call a local LL association, they could tell you.

    The other issue you have is a shared basement. If the basement must be shared due to utility connections, furnaces, water heaters, breaker boxes, or some other reason, you should strongly recommend that tenants not store any personal items down there. And put a clause in your lease that this is a common area and you are not responsible for any items stored in this area. Also, put good locks on the doors leading to the basement from each unit. It would be simple for an unscrupulous tenant to go up the other stairway and bust into the other side of the duplex. No one outside of the house would see or hear them.

    Since you have already changed the locks, you need to get the deposit statement ready very quickly. Mail it within the 30 days to your rental unit if no forwarding address. When it comes back, keep in unopened in their file. Once you have the unit ready and re-rented, try to have him served so you can take him to small claims court for unpaid rent, advertising, damages to the unit, utility bills (check that water bill now - you'll get it liened to the property if not taken care of!), etc. You may be able to garnish his wages at the employment listed on that contract.
  7. #7
    duplexowner is offline Junior Member
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    After speaking with a reputable landlord/tenant attorney in the area, we were advised (based upon local laws) to:
    1. Mail out a "Notice to Reclaim or Forfeit Abandoned Personal Property" to their last known address, email it to them since we have an email address but not a forwarding address), and post it on the property. (due diligence)
    2. Give them 5 business days to make arrangements & remove the property. No statutory requirement for a certain number days)
    3. Request signed authorization if the property is to be claimed/released by/to anyone other than the former leaseholders. (Is reasonable & limits the LL's liability)
    4. Use the phrase "will be disposed of." in the notice (instead of sold, etc).
    5. Do whatever we want with the property after the deadline in the notice.

    The explanation I got was that since I am offering them the opportunity to reclaim it, it isn't considered an illegal eviction (holding posessions hostage). And in absence of state and in many cases local laws directing otherwise, you can then dispose of it however you want to. Many areas require that after an eviction you have to have the possessions stored while other areas allow you to just set items to the curb. Dealing with abandoned personal property with proper notice should be handled in the same manner as personal property from evictions are handled in the respective jurisdiction. In my area, I do not have to store it so I can throw it all out or sell it.

    on a side note - the attorney also said since the tenants gave notice, and confirmed moving out, that changing the locks and posting a phone number to call to gain entry was reasonable and appropriate in dealing with the friends that came over and were messing with the things in the basement. Had the tenants or their friends contacted me to gain entry and I denied them, then it would have been more serious. Since they never contacted me, they were never denied entry, and it isn't anything to worry about.

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