When Is Property Considered Abandoned in California?

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Landlords may dispose of abandoned property.
Landlords may dispose of abandoned property. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Citizens in California are expected to move all personal belongings, including furniture, electronics and clothing, when they vacate a property. Failure to remove property may result in the property being considered abandoned and disposed of by the property owner. Landlords must follow procedures set forth by California law to dispose of property of previous tenants.

Reasonable Belief

California law requires landlords to act using "reasonable belief." Reasonable belief that property was abandoned, under California law, means that given the information available, a reasonable person would reach the conclusion that the individuals abandoned the property. No specific timeframe is required for landlords to reach this conclusion. If necessary, the landlord is expected to seek information by searching public records or making phone calls to locate the property owner.

Written Notice

Prior to disposing of abandoned property, landlords must send a written notice to the former tenants and owners of the property. The notice must list and describe the property and tell the owner where to claim the property. Finally, the notice must inform the property owners of the deadline to claim the abandoned property, and what will be done with the property if it is not claimed.

Storage of Property

If the property owner decides to claim the abandoned property, the landlord may charge the owner reasonable storage costs. The landlord must inform the owner of this charge within the written notice, and these fees must be paid before the landlord releases property to the owners.

Disposing of Property

If the property is not claimed by the deadline, the landlord may dispose of the property. Property valued under $300 may be disposed of at the landlord's discretion. It may be sold, donated, thrown out or destroyed.

If the property is worth more than $300, the landlord must arrange to sell the property at a public auction. The landlord may keep the amount equal to the costs of storage and conducting the auction. The remaining proceeds go to the county in which the property was abandoned and sold.

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