As hard as you may try to avoid it, evictions are inevitable in any landlord’s career. The reasons for evicting a tenant can range from nonpayment of rent and excessive property damage to disturbing neighbors and failing to move after the lease ends.
After a successful eviction, however, you may have another headache to deal with. Sometimes tenants who have been evicted leave some of their belongings behind.
You cannot assume that the possessions were left there because the tenants didn’t want them anymore. There are rules and regulations that landlords must adhere to when handling this kind of situation. You must give your tenant a fair chance to retrieve items left behind before disposing of them.
Disregarding such a responsibility could land you in legal trouble. So, if you’re a landlord in Washington, here’s everything you need to learn in this regard.
Writ of Restitution
When you file for an eviction, if the court rules in your favor, you’ll be given a writ of restitution. A writ of restitution is a legal document that gives the possession of the property back to you. It notifies the tenant that they must move out of the rental property within a certain period of time or the sheriff will remove them.
For all eviction cases, the tenant will have only a specific amount of time to vacate their premises after the writ of restitution has been granted.
In all cases, the tenant will get removed by local law enforcement if they extend their stay beyond the notice period.
Disposing of Abandoned Property
Once the writ has been executed, you may notice that the tenant has left some of their property behind. In Washington, you must store the tenant’s property in a reasonable, secure place. If, however, the tenant – or their representative – objects to the way you’ve stored the belongings, then you must deposit the property in the nearest public area.
Tenants can choose to be present during the execution of the writ of restitution. If they are present, they may have a say on how they want the landlord to store the possessions. But if they choose to be absent, they will be presumed to waive that right.
You must continue storing the tenant’s belongings for a period of 45 days after the successful eviction process. After the 45 days have passed, you may sell or dispose of the property in any manner you see fit.
You can apply any income you derive from the sale towards the drayage and storage costs of the property. Please note, however, that the proceeds from the sale must not exceed the actual or reasonable drayage and storage costs. Any excess income you derive from the sale must be held in trust for the tenant.
The tenant will have a period of one year to make a claim. If, however, they make no claim, then you may treat the balance as abandoned property. As such, you must deposit the amount with the department of revenue in accordance with the law.
Storing a Tenant’s Possession After an Eviction
After a successful eviction process, you may find that the tenant has left a lot of items behind, and storing them may prove challenging.
Here is what you must do to address the issue:
- Dispose of any trash. It won’t make sense to store any property that is clearly trash. So, dispose it of and keep track of the costs of doing so.
- Take inventory of the products. Organize and take an inventory of the belongings. Don’t open any locked items, but make sure to have a thorough list of everything they have left behind. Ideally, take pictures of all the items.
- Store the belongings. You have two options in this regard. One, you can choose to store them in the property or in a storage facility. Taking them to a storage facility is the best decision because you may want to prepare your Washington rental for the next tenant.
- Notify the tenant of the storage. It’s important to let the tenant know where their property is being stored. In the notice make sure to include some important details like the inventory of the abandoned property, associated value, retrieval period, and how it’ll be disposed of if the tenant doesn’t claim it.
- Sell the property. If the tenant doesn’t claim the property within 45 days, you can dispose of or sell the belongings. You must then hold onto the proceeds for another year. If the tenant still makes no claim, then you must treat the proceeds, minus the drayage and storage fees, as abandoned property. Thus, you must report them to the local revenue collection agency.
Protect Yourself Against Future Occurrences
Consider adding a clause in your lease agreement to prevent this kind of situation from occurring altogether. In the clause, you can mention things such as:
- The fee for disposal of any abandoned property.
- An arrangement if the tenant is unable to vacate all their belongings.
- Details on how long you’ll be responsible for storing the items.
The goal here is to protect yourself against getting stuck with tenants’ belongings for an excessive amount of time due to regulations.
It’s important to follow all the correct procedures and protocols when evicting a tenant and dealing with any possessions they’ve left behind. If you need help with keeping track of eviction laws or would like assistance managing your properties consider reaching out to the experts at T-Square Properties!
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this post may no longer be up-to-date at the time you read it. For further help, kindly consider getting in touch with a knowledgeable attorney or an experienced property management company.