What To Do When A Tenant Leaves Belongings Behind In California?

When a tenant moves out of a rental property, it is not uncommon for them to leave behind personal belongings. This can be a frustrating situation for both the landlord and the tenant, as it raises questions about who is responsible for these items and what should be done with them. In California, there are specific laws and procedures that landlords must follow in order to deal with abandoned property.

Understanding California Law

Under California law, landlords are required to follow a specific process when dealing with abandoned property left behind by a tenant.

This process is outlined in the California Civil Code Section 1983-1991. Typically, landlords must:

  • Provide notice to the tenant: Landlords must first notify the tenant in writing that they have left behind personal property and provide them an opportunity to retrieve it within a specified timeframe.
  • Store the property: If the tenant does not claim their belongings within the designated timeframe, the landlord must store the items in a safe location, typically a storage facility. The landlord is entitled to reimbursement for the reasonable costs of storing the property.
  • Notice to sell or dispose of the property: After a certain period of time, the landlord can provide a notice to the tenant stating that if they do not claim their belongings and pay the storage costs, the landlord has the right to sell or dispose of the items.
  • Sale or disposal of the property: If the tenant still fails to claim their property or pay the storage costs, the landlord can proceed with selling or disposing of the items. The landlord must follow specific rules regarding the sale or disposal, including notifying the tenant of the sale or auction and accounting for the proceeds.

Steps to Follow

If you find yourself in a situation where a tenant has left belongings behind, it is essential to follow the appropriate steps outlined by California law. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

1Provide written notice to the tenant
2Store the belongings in a safe location
3Notify the tenant of storage costs and duration
4Issue a notice to sell or dispose of the property
5Hold a public auction or sell the items
6Account for the proceeds and any remaining balance owed to the tenant

Costs and Reimbursement

As a landlord, you are entitled to reimbursement for the reasonable costs associated with storing the tenant’s abandoned property. This includes moving, storage, and any related expenses. However, it is crucial to keep detailed records of these costs to ensure transparency and compliance with the law.

Document Everything

Throughout the process of handling abandoned property, it is essential to document every step you take. This includes written notices, receipts for expenses, communication with the tenant, and any other relevant information. By maintaining thorough records, you can protect yourself legally and have evidence if any disputes arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The California Laws On Tenant Abandoned Property?

In California, landlords must follow specific laws when dealing with abandoned tenant property.

Can A Landlord Dispose Of A Tenant’s Belongings In California?

Landlords in California must adhere to legal procedures to dispose of a tenant’s belongings.

How Long Does A Landlord Have To Hold Tenant Property In California?

Landlords in California are required to store abandoned tenant property for a set period.

Are Landlords Liable For Storing Tenant Belongings In California?

California landlords may bear responsibility for storing tenant abandoned items according to law.


Dealing with abandoned property left behind by a tenant can be a challenging and delicate situation. As a landlord in California, it is crucial to understand and follow the legal procedures outlined in the California Civil Code Section 1983-1991. By providing proper notice, storing the belongings, and following the correct steps for sale or disposal, you can navigate this process effectively and in compliance with the law.

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