Residential Tenancies: Abandoned Property

By Stuart Cappus

Tenants often leave things behind when they move out of a rental unit. In certain circumstances, the landlord is entitled to assume that the tenant has abandoned those belongings and proceed to remove and dispose of them.

Specifically, if a tenant leaves things behind after moving out at the end of their tenancy agreement, the landlord is entitled to consider the tenant to have abandoned whatever they’ve left behind. Similarly, where a tenant hasn’t lived in the unit and paid rent for 1 month straight, and has removed most of their things, the landlord may be entitled to consider the tenant to have abandoned whatever they’ve left behind. The landlord can do so if the tenant has either told the landlord that they aren’t coming back or the circumstances surrounding the tenant’s leaving are such that there’s no reason to think the tenant is ever coming back.

A landlord must keep a written inventory of each item of abandoned property and store them in a safe place for 60 days. However, if an item is less than $500, unsanitary or unsafe, or simply not worth the cost of removal and storage, the landlord can sell or otherwise get rid of the item in a commercially reasonable way.

At the end of the 60 days, the landlord can sell or otherwise get rid of the abandoned property. However, at least 30 days before doing so, the landlord must put an ad in the newspaper. The ad must include the tenant’s name, a description of the items intended to be sold, the address of the rental unit, the landlord’s name, and a statement that the landlord intends to sell the items in 30 days unless someone with an ownership interest comes forward and claims them. If no one comes forward, the landlord can proceed with selling the items. The landlord must keep a record of the sale for 2 years afterwards.

From the proceeds of sale, the landlord can recoup the cost of removing, storing and selling the items, as well as satisfy any debts owing to the landlord by the tenant under their tenancy agreement. If there’s any money left over, the landlord must pay the balance to a provincial government agency.

In rare instances, the tenant may return and demand their property back from the landlord. Before giving it back, the landlord can require the tenant to reimburse the landlord for the cost of removing and storing the property. The landlord can also require the tenant to pay any money owing to the landlord under their tenancy agreement.

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