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Removal of a Former Tenant’s Personal Property

by | Jun 7, 2021 | Real Estate Law |

The real estate market is hot and you’ve decided to dip your toe in the rental property pool.  Congratulations!  You find yourself a (hopefully) reliable tenant to rent your property to and kick back and enjoy the passive income that pours in every month…until it doesn’t.  Your tenant misses a payment but you know what to do because you read “The Eviction Process in North Dakota” article on Ohnstad Twichell’s blog.  With Ohnstad Twichell’s help, you start the eviction process right away and successfully evict your tenant the same month the payment was missed.  The sheriff removes the tenant from the property and you find a new, reliable tenant who is ready to move in.

However, your former tenant still has all of his personal property in your rental unit.  You call the former tenant and leave multiple voicemails attempting to set up a time for him to collect his personal property but he does not answer or return your calls.  Meanwhile, your new tenant is ready to move in so you clean out the former tenant’s personal property with the intent to dispose of it, believing it has been abandoned by the former tenant.  Before disposing of the personal property, you contact your Ohnstad Twichell attorney to confirm you are able to do so.  You believe the value of the former tenant’s personal property is more than $2,500 (if the value was less than $2,500 you could dispose of the personal property 28 days after the tenant vacated the unit) and your OT attorney informs you (1) the eviction statutes gives you a lien against the personal property for cost of removing and storing the personal property since you obtained an eviction judgment, (2) that you must retain the personal property for at least 28 days from the date the former tenant vacated the property before you are entitled to dispose of it, and (3) because the value of the personal property is more than $2,500, you cannot simply dispose of the personal property after the 28 day time period has expired.  Instead, you must first foreclose your lien and obtain the court’s permission before disposing of the personal property.

Evictions are almost never as quick and easy and as you’d like them to be, especially when your tenant leaves personal property at the unit after being evicted.  If you are uncertain as to whether the value of the property left behind is more than $2,500, consider having an independent third-party provide an estimate as to the value of the personal property.  If you dispose of personal property after storing it for 28 days on the basis the property’s value is less than $2,500 and the tenant later alleges the value of the property is more than $2,500, an independent valuation may make the difference in a judge’s determination as to whether the disposal of the property without court supervision was appropriate.