What to Do When Tenants Leave Junk Behind

Shuffling tenants in and out of a multi-family apartment complex requires significant admin. Signing papers, coordinating dates and following protocols can quickly pile up for both the landlord and the movers. Keeping the moving process streamlined and simple improves the tenant’s experience and helps keep your sanity as a landlord.

However, even the most reliable tenants leave things behind. Once they move out, it is the landlord’s responsibility to get the apartment cleaned and truly ready for the next family. So what do you do with the leftover junk? And how do you decrease the amount of junk left behind in the first place?

Differentiating Between Tenant Property and Junk

In most cases, junk is obviously junk. It is cardboard boxes, pieces of packing foam and broken bed frames. Property is a forgotten vacuum cleaner, a box full of books, a bike in the garage, a mantlepiece decoration.

However, in some cases, there are items which are harder to place. For example, it’s harder to be sure about an office chair with a missing wheel, an old television, or an odd piece of clothing. When you find items like these, it’s best to assume they are property and not throw them away.

Disposing of Junk

Although disposing of junk is less complicated than dealing with forgotten property, it still can pose quite a challenge. Tenants might have left behind the garbage expressly because it was difficult to remove. Items that don’t fit nicely into municipal garbage bins are easy to turn a blind eye to when there are 1000 other things on your moving day to-do list.

What’s the solution?

Look up ‘trash service near me’ and get advice. Waste management services, like Atlas Disposal, are here for situations exactly like this. They know how to deal with cumbersome junk and promptly get it out of the way, so your incoming tenant can move in.

What Do I Do with Tenant Property?

Property, unlike junk, takes a little longer to manage. What precisely the landlord is responsible for differs from state to state. Forgotten property can not be thrown out or handed over to the junk removal company. Generally, the protocol involves these three steps:

1. Contact the owner

In almost all cases, you can assume the owner to be the tenant. If you know the property belongs to someone else, like the neighbor, that person needs to be contacted too. Sending letters can be tricky since you might not have the old tenant’s new address. Ideally, a notice via email allows for the quickest response.

2. Hold on to it

In California and Utah, the legal time alloted for the tenant to recover their property is 15 days. After 15 days, you can treat it as junk or sell it and keep the spoils.

3. Sell it or dump it

Selling property can sometimes require more work than it’s worth. Other options include delivering items to second-hand stores like Deseret Industries in Salt Lake City.

Take Steps to Prevent Abandoned Junk and Property

Now you know how to deal with stuff that has been left behind, but it’s better not to have to deal with any at all, right? Right. Let’s take a quick look at some strategies to decrease the annoying leftover stuff issue.

It’s crucial to understand why tenants leave junk behind in the first place. The majority of cases likely stem back to one of these four main reasons:

  • Tenants were rushed and forgot
  • Tenants don’t know how to deal with it
  • Tenants assume it is the landlord’s property
  • Tenants don’t understand the move out policies

Understanding why tenants leave garbage in their old apartments allows you to address these causes specifically.

  • You might be able to reduce the rushed stress of leaving by reminding tenants of their departure dates in the weeks before their move.
  • You can provide clear guidelines for disposing of oversized items in email updates and reminders.
  • When tenants consider moving, remind them what appliances and furniture are their responsibility.
  • Make a clear, no junk left behind, leaving policy. Left behind property can sometimes delay when new tenants move in. Be explicit about these consequences and that this is a policy they must take seriously.

Start Strong

Tenants tend to leave a rental apartment in similar condition to how they found it. Cleaning up other people’s messes isn’t an enviable task, but it does give the right impression to the new tenants coming in. When they are moving into a clean, junk-free apartment, they’ll feel grateful for the clean, fresh start and be more likely to follow policies without as much prodding.

On the other hand, if they move into a rental apartment that requires cleaning up, they won’t be impressed with you as the landlord, even though it’s not your fault. Starting strong is key to any long-term tenant relationships. Everyone loves a generous landlord, and you will enjoy it when your tenants reciprocate this generosity.