When a tenant vacates a rental property, the landlord may find personal property left behind in the unit — despite instructions to leave it empty. This leaves landlords in a difficult position, wondering if they should dispose of these items or notify the tenant. During these situations, it’s important to understand and follow local and state statutes regarding personal property. Failure to do so can result in legal action.
What do Missouri abandoned property laws state that the unit owner should do in these situations?
Missouri statute 441.065 states that a landlord can remove a tenant’s abandoned property if one of more of the following conditions are met:
(1) The landlord has a reasonable belief that the tenant has vacated the premises and intends not to return;
(2) The rent is due and has been unpaid for thirty days; and
(3) The landlord posts written notice on the premises and mails to the last known address of the tenant by both first class mail and certified mail, return receipt requested, a notice of the landlord’s belief of abandonment.
(4) The tenant fails to either pay rent or respond in writing to the landlord’s notice within ten days after both the date of the posting and deposit of such notice by either first class mail or certified mail, return receipt requested, stating the tenant’s intention not to abandon the premises.
Before disposing of any property, it’s important to talk to the tenant to see if any misunderstandings have occurred. Is the tenant sheltering in place at another location due to COVID-19 but is still paying rent? Are they unable to pay rent due to a loss of income but are currently applying for a rental assistance program? Understanding the situation before throwing away or selling property can help landlords avoid a countersuit by tenants.
Am I required to notify the tenant before disposing of their property?
Yes, Missouri law require landlords to give a written notice and notify tenants via their last known address with the following note:
“The rent on this property has been due and unpaid for thirty consecutive days and the landlord believes that you have moved out and abandoned the property. The landlord may declare this property abandoned and remove your possessions from this unit and dispose of them unless you write to the landlord stating that you have not abandoned this unit within ten days of the landlord having both posted this notice on your door and mailing this notice to you. You should mail your statement by regular first class mail and, if you so choose, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to this address ______ (here insert landlord’s name and street address)”
Are there restrictions on how I remove abandoned property?
Missouri law does not state how property must be handled or disposed of. However, it’s advisable to handle all items — especially those that may be expensive or valuable — with care.
Can I help my tenant avoid an eviction so I don’t have to dispose of any abandoned property?
Job loss caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic has made it difficult for some tenants to pay rent on time. Before evicting renters or disposing of any abandoned property, it’s possible to work with them and provide resources to help them pay past due rent.
As of May 25, 2021, the City of St. Louis is offering emergency rental assistance to residents who have suffered financial hardship during the pandemic. The program is limited to 1,500 applicants.
Fernandez Law handles certain cases pertaining to property laws, including premises liability and product liability. If you’re looking to speak with an attorney or think you might have a case, contact us to schedule a free consultation.