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Legal Aid Society
Landlord & Tenant
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This page provides instructions to landlord for proper handling of tenant's personal property after tenant appears to have abandoned premises.
How does a landlord has a rental unit declared abandonment?

The law states that the lessor or landlord may give a "Notice of Belief of Abandonment" to the tenant ONLY where (1) the rent for the property has been due and unpaid for at least 14 consecutive days AND (2) the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned the property.

If BOTH of these conditions are met, the landlord is required to serve a "Notice of Belief of Abandonment" on the tenant. The date of termination of the lease shall be specified in the notice. The termination date shall not be less than 15 days after the notice is personally served or, in the case of mailing, not less than 18 days after the notice is deposited in the mail (see sample notice in next paragraph).

Before the notice expires, the tenant will be required to give written notice to the landlord which include the following information:
  1. His/her intention not to abandon the property, and
  2. An address at which the tenant may be served by certified mail in any action that may commence an unlawful detainer or any other court action.

How does a landlord serve an abandonment notice?

The notice may be served either by personal delivery to the tenant or by first-class mail. If the notice is mailed, it must be sent to the tenant's last known address. Also, if there is reason to believe that the notice sent to that address will not be received by the tenant, the notice must also be sent to any other address known to the landlord (such as that of an employer, relative or personal reference) where the tenant might be reasonably expected to receive notice.

Notice of Belief of Abandonment

To: ___________________________
(Name of lessee/Tenant)
(Address of lessee/Tenant)

This notice is given pursuant to Section 1951.3 of the Civil Code concerning the real property leased by you at (State location of the property by address or other sufficient description). The rent on this property has been due and unpaid for 14 consecutive days and the lessor/landlord believes that you have abandoned the property.

The real property will be deemed abandoned within the meaning of Section 1951.2 of the Civil Code and your lease will terminate on (here insert a date not less than 15 days after this notice is served personally or, if mailed, not less than 18 days after this notice is deposited in the mail) unless before such date the undersigned receives at the address indicated below a written notice from you stating both of the following:

  1. Your intent not to abandon the real property.
  2. An address at which you may be served by certified mail in an action for unlawful detainer of the real property or any other court action.

You are required to pay the rent due and unpaid on this real property as required by the lease, and your failure to do so can lead to a court proceeding against you.

Date:________ ________________________________
(Signature of lessor/landlord)
(Type or print name of lessor/landlord)
(Address to which lessee/tenant is to send notice)

What should a landlord do with the tenant's personal property at termination of tenancy?

After regaining possession of the premises, the landlord must follow certain procedures to dispose of the personal property left by the tenant. A "Notice to Reclaim Abandoned Property" must be sent to the former tenant (see sample notice below). During the notice period, the landlord may either leave the personal property that has been left by the tenant in the unit or put the property in private storage.

The landlord is required to release the property to the tenant if it is claimed within the specified time in the notice. However, the tenant is required to pay reasonable (fair market value) storage costs to the landlord. The landlord is not allowed to hold the tenant's property in order to obtain rent or any other obligations owed by the tenant once the fair market value for storage has been paid. If the tenant pays storage costs and requests the return of the property, the landlord must release the property.

Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property

To: ___________________________
(Name of former tenant)
(Address of former tenant)

When you vacated the premises at (Address of premises, including room or apartment number, if any), the following personal property remained: (Insert description of the personal property).

You may claim this property at (Address where property may be claimed).

Unless you pay the reasonable cost of storage for all the above-described property, and take possession of the property which you claim, not later than (Insert date not less than 15 days after notice is personally delivered or, if mailed, not less than 18 days after notice is deposited in mail) this property may be disposed of pursuant to Civil Code Section 1988.

* (Insert here either statement 1 or 2 from below).

Dated:________ _______________________________
(Signature of landlord)
(Type or print name of landlord)
(Telephone Number)
(Address of landlord)
* Alternate inserts for notice:
  1. "If you fail to reclaim the property, it will be sold at a public sale after notice of the sale has been given by publication. You have the right to bid on the property at this sale. After the property is sold and the cost of storage, advertising, and sale is deducted, the remaining money will be paid over to the county. You may claim the remaining money at any time within one year after the county received the money".

  2. "Because this property is believed to be worth less than $300.00, it may be kept, sold, or destroyed without further notice if you failed to reclaim it within the time indicated above".
What can a landlord do if the tenant does not claim the property?

If the rightful owner of personal property does not claim it within the period specified in the notice and the value of the property does not exceed $300, the landlord may keep the property or dispose of it as he/she wishes.

If the value of the property exceeds $300, the landlord must conduct a public sale according to the requirements in Section 6066 of the Government Code. The requirements include publication of the Notice or Public Sale once a week for two successive weeks in a newspaper which is published once a week or more often. The two notices must be at least 5 days apart. The two week notice period begins the first day of publication and ends at the end of the 14th day.

After the sale, the landlord may retain that portion o the revenues necessary to cover storage costs, advertising and other costs incurred from the sale. Any balance of the revenues must be forwarded to the County Treasurer no later than 30 days after the public sale. The rightful owner of the property may file a claim for the balance within one year after the date of payment to the County Treasurer.
The purpose of this page is to provide general information on the law, which is subject to change. If you have a specific legal problem, you may want to consult a lawyer.

For further information or assistance
call the housing law project at (408) 283-1540

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