When a tenant vacates their rental property (and the tenancy ends), some personal property may be left behind. In New Jersey, however, the Abandoned Tenant Property Statute applies certain restrictions to what landlords may do with such property. Fundamentally, a landlord may not dispose of personal property left by a tenant without first allowing the tenant to recover their abandoned personal belongings — and this requirement is applicable in situations where the tenant was legally evicted or otherwise is not current on rent payments.
For example, if your tenant has not paid their rent and a New Jersey court grants your request for eviction, you must still give the tenant opportunity to recover the personal belongings that they left behind on the property.
Confused about your duties and obligations as a landlord? Call (973) 366-1188 today to speak with an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney at Griffin Alexander, P.C.
So, what requirements are imposed by the Abandoned Tenant Property Statute? Let’s take a look.
Landlords are entitled to dispose of any personal property that is left behind on the premises at-issue so long as proper written notice has been given to the tenant, and if the landlord reasonably believes — given the circumstances — that the tenant has thereafter abandoned the personal property.
If the tenant does actually intend to reclaim their personal property (and evinces a clear intent not to abandon such property), they must immediately notify you of their intentions. The tenant has 33 days to respond, starting from the day that the notice is mailed (or 30 days after delivery of the notice, if that occurs first). As a landlord, it’s important that you avoid using the return of personal property as a bargaining chip by which to “persuade” the tenant to pay various unpaid charges, rent, etc. New Jersey law requires that you make the personal property available to the tenant even if they owe you rent.
If the tenant intends to reclaim their personal belongings and properly notifies you as to their intention, then you must store all the property at-issue in a place of safekeeping. You must also exercise reasonable care to avoid damaging such property. Of course, disposal of certain goods may be necessary (i.e., perishable food).
Storage costs (and incidental costs) are recoverable. The tenant must reimburse you for the reasonable cost of removal and storage — these costs must be in keeping with the fair market value of such services, however. As a landlord, it’s worth noting that you are not liable for any property losses that occur as a result of storage and removal, except insofar as such losses are attributable to your own negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts.
Once the tenant makes it clear that they have effectively abandoned their claim to the remaining personal property, you are entitled to dispose of it. New Jersey law allows you to dispose of the personal property through a public or private sale, or to destroy it (if the cost of conducting a sale would be higher than the potential proceeds).
In the event that you dispose of the tenant’s property in violation of the Abandoned Tenant Property Statute, the tenant may sue and recover up to twice the actual damages they sustained as a result (minus storage and removal costs).
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the closure of a tenancy, make sure to consult with an attorney who has experience handling New Jersey landlord tenant law. Let the skilled attorneys at Griffin Alexander, P.C. assist you! Call us at (973) 366-1188 to get connected today.
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