How Long Can Someone Leave Their Property At Your House?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart
It can be a tricky and uncomfortable situation when someone leaves their belongings on your property and you don’t know what to do with it. Well, other than in some unique cases, these items are considered abandoned. But, before you discard anything, let’s see if it’s legal for you to do so.

Not too long ago, we had a friend of mine crash at our place for a while. He then left, but asked to store his backpack at our home. We said sure, but he never really came back. Days turned to weeks, then to months. Eventually, we said that if he didn’t pick up his stuff, it’d be thrown out. He arrived on the scene, ready to pick up his crap the next day. Ever wonder how long it takes before you can throw out a guest’s stuff?

If someone leaves their property in your house, it is not generally considered abandoned. By law, you are required to call the tenant or guest and ask them to pick up their items as soon as possible. Send them a notice by letter at least twice with a specific due date for pickup. If you get no response, you can donate, auction off, or dispose the items.

Trying to deal with the ins and outs of the legal system when someone else’s property is at stake can be brutal. This guide will help you prevent yourself from being found in court.

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How Long Does It Take For Property To Be Considered Abandoned?

This is the hardest thing to nail down, primarily because it varies from state to state. However, in every single state, property that is left behind by an owner must be followed with an attempt to contact the owner. If you do not make an attempt to give the property back to the owner, they can sue you for losses or damages.

As mentioned before, you should call them first and send the person two written notices with specific due dates to pick the items up. If they don’t respond after two written notices, you can then donate, auction off, or send dispose of the items. Items with a value of less than $300.00 can be disposed or the owner of the home can do with it as they see fit.

In some cases, you can store that person’s stuff until you can verifiably prove that you’ve made an attempt to contact them regarding the property. Moreover, the stuff needs to be stored in a way that protects it from damage. Otherwise, it could be considered to be neglect on behalf of the homeowner.

What’s The Difference Between Lost Or Abandoned Property?

The law has fine differences between lost and abandoned property. Abandoned property is any property that is intentionally left somewhere, with no intention of ever picking it up again. Lost property was unintentionally left behind. With lost property, people want it back and still are considered the owners. With abandoned property, people don’t want it back and it’s up for grabs.

What If My Tenant Left Property After They Moved Out?

If you’re a landlord whose tenant just moved out, but left property, then you need to refer to your state laws. Around half of all states don’t have laws regarding a minimum amount of days you have to keep tenant property. Of those that do, most require a minimum of 30 days before the property can be thrown out.

It’s best to check local laws to find out where you state stands with tenant property mandates before you even consider touching their stuff. Even then, you should give them a written notice of leftover property. It’s good form and it’s usually a nice way to encourage them to pick up after themselves.

Does The Value Of The Property Have An Impact On The Law’s Behavior?

If the property is below the $300 mark, most courts will consider it to be a negligible value. So, if they leave stuff like food, a pair of sweatpants, or a cheap plastic bracelet, you might not ever have to worry about a court case. People aren’t going to pursue you for things like that in most cases.

However, if you want to play it safe, it’s best to treat everything non-perishable that someone leaves at the home as a pricey object. After all, you never know how people are going to react if a cherished jacket goes missing. People are litigious these days, you know!

How Do I Legally Get Rid Of Another Person’s Stuff That Was Left In My Home?

If you want to get rid of stuff that was left at your property, you are going to have a bit of a process ahead of you. To get rid of the abandoned stuff, you have to prove that it’s been abandoned. To do this, you’re going to have to walk through the following steps…

  • Place the stuff in a safe place. Note the date and time, as well as any other information that you may have regarding it. You want to be able to have a timeline in place. As far as the storage goes, try to go for a dry area that won’t have too much traffic.
  • Reach out to the person who left the stuff there, either by phone, by email, or by certified mail. Ask them to pick up their things, and explain (in detail) what the things are. Ask them when they are available to pick it up, and if you need to mail smaller items to them. Save the text, email, or a copy of the letter for yourself.
  • If they do not reply within a week, send a followup letter, text, or email. If you choose the letter route, choose a certified letter. Save a copy of said letter for yourself, just in case you need to bring it to court. In this letter, say that it’s your second time reaching out. Ask them to set up a time to pick up their items and also set a deadline. Tell them that if they don’t reply by the deadline, then you will consider their property abandoned.
  • If they reach out to you and ask for more time, arrange a time (via written text) when they can pick up the items before it’s considered abandoned. If they don’t pick up the items or responds to your alerts within the given timeframe, it can legally be considered abandoned property. Should they try to pick it up after the fact, you will be legally absolved of responsibility as they have already ceded their rights to it.

Can You Sell Abandoned Property?

If the property was abandoned in your home or on your front lawn, you have the right to do whatever you want with it. This can include keeping it, throwing it in the dumpster, or yes, bringing it to the pawnshop for a valuation. The item is now legally yours, so if you want to pawn it, you’re allowed to do so.

What If Someone Abandons A Car On My Property?

If the property they left behind was a car or other vehicle, things get even more complicated. There are plenty of reasons why people tend to abandon their cars. Most commonly, it’s a tactic that’s used by people who are going overseas and no longer want to make payments on their cars. However, that doesn’t mean that you can just pop the key in and drive.

Cars (as well as other vehicles) require insurance and also may have other specific laws attached to them. The best thing to do in the event of a car being abandoned on your property is to call a lawyer that deals with lost property. Before you even think of getting it broken into or selling it, it’s best to understand the full scope of your local law.

Related Questions

How do I find unclaimed property or unclaimed money in the US?

Most states in the Union participate in, which is where states can file unclaimed property. You can search for yourself by name to see if anyone or any company owes you money. If you are owed money that you haven’t claimed, then you can choose to file a claim to receive your money. From there, the state will verify who you are and disburse the money owed to you.

Can I throw out my ex’s stuff?

If you are dealing with a divorce, you cannot throw out your ex’s stuff without a court order to do so. Choosing to throw out your ex’s stuff can easily open the door for a lawsuit as well as criminal charges, depending on which state you live in. The best route to go is to talk to your ex and ask them to pick up their items.If you know your ex’s address, you can also choose to mail items to them. However, this can become extremely pricey rather quickly. It’s best to discuss with a lawyer what should be done.

Can you sue someone for throwing out your belongings?

You can sue someone, but it will depend on whether it was intentional or even negligent. It also depends on the value of your belongings. Anything under $300 is small enough for the person to not get in trouble. And, at $300 the cost of legal fees may outweigh what you can win in court.If you can prove that they intentionally threw out your belongings as an act of revenge, then you can probably take them to court. If you can prove that they knew the belongings were yours and that they never reached out to you, you also may have a viable case.Related Guides

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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