Sometimes tenants leave things behind. Sometimes these things look valuable. Sometimes they leave entire apartments behind. What can a landlord do with abandoned property? The key issue is whether you have documentation about their ending their residency. Even with a lease, you must be sure they do not intend to reside there. Without such documentation, you must follow the abandoned property process.
If You Have Documentation
Suppose they communicated that they were leaving, left you their keys, and sent you a final text saying they have left. In this case, you can dispose of remnants as trash and deduct from the security deposit for the out-of-pocket cost of disposal. Anything that looks valuable might be stored in a basement to be nice, in case they come back. Save all emails, screenshot all their texts, and organize all your evidence. If they come back to sue, you can remind them that they told you they were gone.
The Abandoned Property Process
Suppose they have disappeared without saying anything. There may or may not be keys left in the apartment. In this case, you have no proof that they are gone forever. Even if the apartment is mostly empty, you haven't heard them tell you they're gone. They might have spare keys. They might intend to return. You must follow the abandoned property process.
The abandoned property process is:
1.) Issue the disappeared tenant a notice to quit. Mail it to their rental address.
2.) Talk with other tenants, look for piled up mail, or smell for an odor. Any evidence that they have left should be documented before you enter.
3.) Enter the apartment. A constable is not required. If there is nothing left, the apartment is abandoned. If there is anything left at all, write another letter to their rental address:
"Based on the following observations I have determined that you have abandoned your apartment. If I have not heard from you in 7 days, I will assume it's abandoned."
4.) Take pictures of everything left behind, or if you aren't comfortable taking pictures, bring a constable back to document the apartment for you.
5.) Go to court following the normal eviction process to get an execution. This should go quickly because the tenant is not there to resist. Make sure you file all paperwork as soon as you can.
6.) With the execution, constable, and bonded moving company, move the remaining items into storage. Pay the movers per the law.
7.) The apartment is now yours.
If you have some communication indicating they were ending their tenancy, you might make do with just step 3. When in doubt, follow full the abandonment process. It will let you dispose of any items of any value and still be found faultless under MA law.
- Related Page: Massachusetts Eviction Process