Life happens. And sometimes, people don’t deal with their circumstances well — or legally.
A death in the family, a redundancy, legal trouble, or even a bad roommate situation can prompt a tenant to pack up and leave unexpectedly. Of course, there’s a right way to move on, but not everyone chooses it. So, if a tenant abandons your property, you need to be ready to handle it.
Signs Your Rental Property’s Abandoned
If a tenant abandons a home, they aren’t going to give you a heads-up. So, if you see any of these signs, your first step is to call the tenant and check in.
Look for stacks of mail on the front porch or an overflowing mailbox.
2. Overgrown Grass
If the tenant’s in charge of lawn maintenance, an overgrown yard says something’s awry.
3. Utilities Disconnected
When power gets disconnected at our houses, the utility company reconnects those properties in our name. If you set up your account that way, the utility company will notify you if your property has an unexpected change.
Recently, our utility company called to inform us they’d reconnected a property in our name. When we pulled the file, the tenants still had six months left in their lease. We knew it was time to contact our tenant to find out more.
Steps to Take If A Tenant Abandons Your Property
If you suspect a tenant abandoned the property, call them. It’s the quickest way to get in contact.
If you can’t reach the person, drive out to the property to find out more. We ring the doorbell while we’re there as a way to see if the utilities are still on.
As you look around the house, you’ll likely be able to tell if the home is abandoned. If it is, post a notification letter to the front door. The letter should explain, “This property has been deemed to be abandoned. If this is untrue, call this number. If we don’t hear from you within 5 days, we will re-key the property.” Then send another copy of the letter as certified mail.
That is the beginning of the eviction process. Of course, you hope that you will be proved wrong and that the tenant will show up. But if they don’t, you want to regain possession of the property as quickly as possible. Because of the letter, the eviction process and repossession move much faster. Otherwise, it takes about a month to get back possession of the house.
After five days, re-key the property. Then complete a full move-out inspection to document damages beyond normal use. When we send the final bill, we want to make sure the tenant is legally responsible for anything they damaged, even if they refuse to pay.
After documenting damages, follow through with the eviction, make repairs, and get the property ready to list. After all, you want a new tenant in the property quickly.
If you think a tenant has abandoned your property, you can’t afford to wait to see what happens. Hoping a tenant calls you back isn’t enough. Abandonment starts with an unfortunate situation, but you have to respond quickly. Be proactive to find out what’s happened so you can find a new tenant. You’re losing money every second the property remains empty.