How to handle tenant belongings

My tenant (staying last 4.5 years) got divorced and decided to move out because he cannot pay rent due to child support expense. His lease ends in August, but he said that he is moving out during March. I said OK. He did not pay March rent, saying last month’s deposit is March rent. He said that he will move his stuff and has removed most of his belongings. He left the key and told me its location. I told him not to disconnect utilities as I will need it for painting, fix-up etc. to which he agreed.

I went to inspect the house and found that he still has belongings in 2 bedrooms. How do I handle that and ask him to take out his stuff? He is not answering my numerous calls to his cell-phone and text messages. Today, I left him a message, nicely telling that I am moving his stuff to garage as I have to make the house ready for next tenant. I also told him that he has garage door opener, so he can take away his belongings any time he needs. He has not disconnected utilities on as promised. No major damage to property that I am not willing to handle.

He has been nice tenant so far, also recommended his friend for the lease. (I declined because his friends was not willing to pay the current rent, he wanted it cheaper.) Everything so far was discussed verbally and I do not have his forwarding address, though I was able to talk to him at work.

How do I handle this situation without getting in legal trouble and not pissing him?


 I don't know what state your in but you probable have to store the left over items for some period of time stated by law. 

Since your tenant was under a lease he should potentially be liable for the lease payment until the unit is re-leased (Rented).
You are responsible to try to get a new tenant as quickly as possible.

I take it you have his termination in writing?


This property is in Tezas.
No, the tenant informed me verbally, nothing is in writing and now I cannot reach him as he won’t answsr my phone calls or text messages.


 You will have to talk with a real estate law attorney, a eviction service or property management company who will specifically answer the question about belongings and time required to store them.

On a high note I had a friend in California who did not get the intention to move in writing, cleaned out the apartment and re-rented it and the original tenant came back in 45 or 50 days and said “I never moved out of my apartment and I never intended to move and I have a lease in force for 7 more months!”

It made a huge mess and it wasn’t pretty! If I were you I would do an eviction right away and get the legal right to possess the unit and the personal property, some of these tenants these days are unscrupulous and have no sense of fair play! You don’t want a tenant showing back up and demanding the unit because you have nothing in writing!


Texas landlord tenant law states “Landlords are not permitted by law to remove belongings from an apartment except in the case of abandonment”.

If you have some form of record that they have left and you have mutually terminated the lease agreement then you’re good. Hawk the stuff on ebay if it’s worth it, if not, donate it if you can or trash it if it’s junk.

I’m not aware of anyplace that allows landlords to confiscate the personal property of tenants unless they’ve abandoned the property.

What landlord can’t figure out if the tenant has skipped, or not? I’ve had tenants hide from me for a week, or so, trying to bide time to catch up on their rents, while they’re ostensibly on vacation.

However, even in that case, the laws in most states have a number of days the landlord must wait before emptying out a unit, even if it’s abandoned. After that, it’s assumed the tenant is gone.

Never mind checking the unit for recent activity. However, the law also prohibits a landlord from going into a unit without notice, unless it’s for an emergency.

Well, it’s always an emergency for me, if I suspect the water has been left on, and I’m paying for it, and/or I can’t contact the tenant for any length of time. And that applies to any utility I pay for.

Meantime, the ones biding time, usually want the place to appear occupied. Even then, I check out the fridge and closets for clues that someone is still there, or not. And then, it’s a matter of weighing my options about what to do next.

I had a tenant hiding from me, and disappeared for a week and a half. I assumed he skipped, and had my staff empty the entire contents, and make the unit rent-ready that day. I moved the tenant’s crap to a unit that was under construction across the hall.

Well, two days later, lo-and-behold, “Mr. Hidey Ho” shows up with the police, demanding we return his stuff. “Sure, it’s right here,” I said as we opened the door to the unit across the hall. Mr. Ho was dumbfounded. He thought for sure we had stolen his stuff.

Meantime, I already had his unit re-rented, and we could go back to work on the remodeling project, once this guy’s crap was moved out.

I had another tenant move in her boyfriend. She left, and he tried to stay …without paying rent. We packed his color TV and other stuff up, and got rid of it. I was able to give away a nice color TV in the process. The fur flew. We got a call from this guy’s church, telling us we were unethical and ‘unChristian.’ Yeah, well, so is squatting without paying rent, and stealing our product. Hung up.

I’ve got many stories like that. Never been sued.

It sounds like you’ve handled it well: you’ve kept his items safe, he has access to them, and you’re not paying for storage. If there’s no written termination, did he technically abandon the property? I tried to search Texas laws; maybe search Chapter 54 of the Texas Property Code. Hope that helps.

I hope you have this under control by now.

The tenant didn’t abandon. He stated he is coming back for his stuff; that is not abandonment. He still has property in the house and has not paid rent. I would file for eviction to make sure I could get his stuff out legally.

Step one would be to call and leave a message that I was filing for eviction if all his stuff wasn’t out and the keys returned within 72 hours. Or else a signed note placed in my hand that he doesn’t want any of his stuff and it is now the landlord’s property to do with as the landlord wishes and that the tenant has giving up possession of the property.

You have to CYA… tenants get away with not following the law, landlords don’t. If you ever read a tenant forum they are always trying to figure out how they can sue their landlord. Make sure you follow the law.