What To Do When a Tenant Leaves Their Belongings Behind

If there’s anything worse than a vacant unit, it’s a vacant unit filled with stuff. Tenants can get sloppy when they move out, whether they left voluntarily or got evicted. But it’s not just a hassle for the landlord. Navigating the situation can lead to legal consequences. This guide can help you figure out what to do when a tenant leaves their belongings behind.

Define “Belongings”

The first step is to differentiate between trash and valuable belongings. If it’s garbage, a landlord can toss it, but objects of value are another story. Busted-up furniture? Garbage. Furniture in good shape? Tread carefully, or you could face serious penalties and liabilities if you dispose of it improperly. Other examples include televisions, bicycles, clothing, and even cars.

Identify Why They Left

How you move forward varies from state to state, but it all depends on this question: why did they leave? For instance, if your tenants gave notice and moved at the end of their lease, the laws give landlords a lot more leeway over how they handle belongings left behind. If your tenant was evicted, you must follow a specific procedure. And if the tenant just disappeared, you’ll want to get the authorities involved.

Exceptions to the Law

Items considered “fixtures” and any motorized vehicles left at the unit are exceptions to the state’s abandoned property laws. This is how you can handle them:


If the tenant has attached something to the wall of the rental unit, it’s considered a “fixture.” This includes anything fairly permanent, such as lighting or built-in bookshelves. If those get left behind, they’re considered a part of the premises and you don’t have to return them.


Whether it’s a working vehicle or a broken-down beater, you have to call the local police. They’ll want to know the car’s license plate number, make, model, and location. They can instruct you further, but they’ll probably just tow it out of your life.

It’s hard enough to clean up a rental unit for the next tenant without having to wade through someone’s junk. But make sure you’ve covered all the legalities and know what to do when a tenant leaves their belongings behind in your state. If you hire a competent company like R. Russell Properties, we’ll take care of the details for you. If you need Apopka property management or help elsewhere in central Florida, contact us to learn more about our local experience.