What Can I Do With My Tenants Abandoned Personal Property?

If your tenant moves out and owes a few months rent, it may be tempting to sell the personal belongings they leave behind, but this can be a risky move if you don’t know the legal protocol. A landlord who does not follow the rules of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) may find themselves liable for:

  • Fines
  • Paying the tenant back for their missing property
  • Giving back the tenant’s property left behind

The processes required when handling a previous tenant’s possessions can differ according to the circumstances in which the left. The RTA outlines five of these situations.

1.    Tenant is evicted or broke the lease agreement:

If all of the guidelines for proper eviction or lease breaking were met, and there were not prior agreements made for the storage of the tenant’s property then the landlord is not held liable for selling, retaining or disposing of the tenant’s property.

2.    Sheriff evicts the tenant:

If the tenant leaves the property behind after a sheriff has evicted them, the landlord must give the tenant 72 hours to remove their property. During the 72 hours, the landlord may keep the property in the rental unit or in a safe, nearby storage area. If the landlord does not, the tenant can bring a case to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s IEU, or file a T2 with the Board of Housing. If the 72 hours pass and the tenant has left their belongings, the landlord is not held liable for selling, retaining or disposing of the tenant’s property.

3.    Tenant abandons rental unit:

Abandon means that the tenant owes rent and moves out without giving notice to the landlord to end tenancy or getting evicted by the Board or landlord. When this happens, in order to sell, retain, or dispose of the property left behind, the landlord must do one of two things:

  • Apply to the Board with an L2 application—an order stating the property is abandoned and the tenancy is ended; or
  • Serve a notice to the tenant (with a copy for the Board), stating their intentions to sell, retain, or dispose of the tenant’s property. This can be sent to the last known address or business address. The landlord must wait 30 days after the notice to do anything with the supposed abandoned property. If the tenant contacts the landlord (within 30 days of the notice) wanting their property, they have 30 more days to claim it. But, if the landlord sold the property after 30 days, the tenant still has six months to claim any money the landlord made by selling the property in question (after their rent and dues to landlord are paid first).

4.    Tenant abandons their mobile home:

Same definition of abandonment applies here as above. The landlord must notify the tenant with a registered letter to their last known address and publish a notice in a newspaper local to the mobile home.

The tenant has 60 days to claim their property. But again, the tenant has six months to claim any remaining (after rent and dues to landlord are paid) sales.

5.    Tenant Dies:

If there is no one else occupying the rental unit, the landlord has 30 days after the tenant’s death to terminate the lease agreement. However, the landlord and an executor or family member can come to an agreement about ending the tenancy and, selling, keeping or disposing of the deceased’s property. Within the 30 days, the landlord is able to dispose of unsafe or unhygienic items (such as rotting food).


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