Disclaimer before we begin: I am not an eviction attorney, never have been, never want to be. The below information is simply my ideas and interpretation of the Minnesota statues. As always, you should seek legal counsel for further help.
Update: This law was changed in 2011 to 28 days. All other details remain the same.
This is a little understood part of the landlord/tenant law. What happens when your tenant vacates your property (whether by eviction or by their lease expiring) and then leaves behind personal belongings. Here is the official statute:
Minnesota Statute 504B.271 TENANT’S PERSONAL PROPERTY REMAINING IN PREMISES.
Subdivision 1.Abandoned property.
If a tenant abandons rented premises, the landlord may take possession of the tenant’s personal property remaining on the premises, and shall store and care for the property. The landlord has a claim against the tenant for reasonable costs and expenses incurred in removing the tenant’s property and in storing and caring for the property.
The landlord may sell or otherwise dispose of the property 60 days after the landlord receives actual notice of the abandonment, or 60 days after it reasonably appears to the landlord that the tenant has abandoned the premises, whichever occurs last, and may apply a reasonable amount of the proceeds of the sale to the removal, care, and storage costs and expenses or to any claims authorized pursuant to section 504B.178, subdivision 3, paragraphs (a) and (b). Any remaining proceeds of any sale shall be paid to the tenant upon written demand.
Prior to the sale, the landlord shall make reasonable efforts to notify the tenant of the sale at least 14 days prior to the sale, by personal service in writing or sending written notification of the sale by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the tenant’s last known address or usual place of abode, if known by the landlord, and by posting notice of the sale in a conspicuous place on the premises for at least two weeks.
Did you get that? Here is how I understand, interpret, and use the above law:
- Before you dispose of anything, I recommend you at the minimum take a paper inventory. Better yet, take pictures or video of everything. Even your camera phone is better than nothing. You want a picture to show a judge when the dead-beat tenant tries to sue you, looking for their 42″ plasma TV they supposedly left behind.
- Anything that could be considered junk or trash can be immediately disposed of including any dishes or food. Keep in mind that junk to you may not be junk to the tenant, but the reasonable test. One of my friends always uses this argument: “if it was so valuable, why did they leave it behind?”.
- You must store any property for 60 days after the tenant has left the property as defined in the above statute. You can store the property anywhere it will be safe from damage, theft, etc. Occasionally, if I am doing renovations on the apartment, I may have my property handyman store everything in an extra bedroom for at least some time until I absolutely have to move it.
- The landlord can charge for the storage, removal, and any other expenses that are reasonable. I would recommend you document, document, document any and all costs. Do not think you can charge $100 per day to store this stuff in your garage. If it got to court, I am sure the judge would look at your sideways!
- Although you can not hold the property ransom for any past due rent or damages, I believe (do not quote me on this one) that you can hold it ransom for any and all storage/moving costs.
- The landlord must make all reasonable accommodations to allow the tenant access to the property. I often will have them give me 24 hours notice when it is convenient to me. When you do allow access, document everything that is removed. You don’t want them coming back later and claiming that someone stole that 50″ plasma TV.
- At the end of 60 days, I will often try to send a letter to their forwarding address telling them I am disposing everything. Then sell it, keep it, or toss it.
Unfortunately, having to store your tenant’s stuff can be a last kick in the teeth after just evicting a tenant for owing you $1000s. In my experience, 98% of the tenants never come back for anything. I have thrown out old family albums, TVs, computers, tools, etc. I once took 14 bags of clothes to the Goodwill from a tenant that I evicted because they couldn’t pay the $150 portion of their Section 8 rent. It always amazes me that many of them lead such disposable lives.