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Navigating the unpredictable world of property rentals can sometimes leave landlords facing unexpected disputes. One such scenario is a tenant seemingly vacating their unit without notice. Determining the right course of action starts with understanding the legal nuances that can protect your rights and assets.

This is where the advice of a landlord-tenant attorney becomes invaluable. Dive into this guide to gain insights into the procedures to follow if the tenant surrenders a rental unit or abandons personal property.

Surrender of a Rental Unit

The unequivocal indication of a tenant’s surrender of a rental unit is the return of the keys to you as the landlord. If they’ve handed them over, they likely don’t plan on returning.

However, if keys are absent, your first move should be to contact the tenant to ask them to return the key. If unsuccessful, you should obtain a signed statement from the tenant acknowledging the unit’s surrender. If this isn’t feasible, verbally confirming and documenting the surrender with a follow-up letter solidifies the decision.

But what if they’re completely unresponsive? You’ll have two choices:

  1. Undertake the judicial eviction process, which, while time-consuming and costly, is the safest method.
  2. Assume the unit surrender and change the locks—a riskier move that might lead to legal complications.

Landlords have faced lawsuits when choosing the second option due to perceived illegal evictions. Therefore, if you lean toward this choice, comprehensive documentation is crucial.

Keep records of all communication attempts, speak with neighbors, and inspect the unit for signs of permanent departure. If the tenant files a lawsuit, you can use the documented information to defend yourself.

Abandoned Personal Property

Ideally, your rental agreement would already include a clause stating you won’t store any abandoned belongings. With this clause in place, if a tenant has surrendered the unit, you can dispose of left-behind items except medical devices, prescriptions, or titled vehicles.

Even with key returns signaling a surrendered unit, a proactive step is contacting the tenant. This simple gesture of asking if the possessions have been intentionally abandoned is courteous and prevents potential disputes. If you can, secure written confirmation regarding their intentions for any remaining belongings.

However, if your rental contract lacks this crucial clause on abandoned property, you’re tethered to an older procedure. This mandates sending a written notice detailing the items left and notifying the tenant of your intention to discard them after 30 days.

Work with an Experienced Landlord-Tenant Attorney in New York

Navigating landlord-tenant dynamics can be intricate and demanding. If you are a landlord in New York State, having expert guidance can prevent extensive hassle and expense.

At Warren S. Dank, Esq., P.C., we specialize in various landlord-tenant concerns, from rent disputes to lease violations. Schedule a consultation with our landlord-tenant lawyer and have a reliable advocate to help you through legal proceedings.