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What do you do with the "stuff" the tenant leaves behind?

In representing residential landlords, especially in eviction proceedings, there traditionally was great uncertainty about what to do with the personal property left after the tenants vacate the property. Recent television shows like American Pickers and Storage Wars have bolstered the adage that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. This notion would often come into play when spiteful tenants claimed that their "valuable personal property" was illegally disposed of in haste to prepare the leasehold for marketing to new, often more financially responsible, tenants. Thinking that the problem tenants were gone from their lives, landlords would sometimes be surprised with a retaliatory lawsuit claiming that the former tenants' prized possessions were destroyed, or even kept and sold by the landlord (under the law, this a common law civil wrong, or tort, known as conversion).

In 2012, Pennsylvania created a new law which provides a mechanism to protect both landlords from frivolous claims, and tenants from over-zealous landlords. The law is codified at 68 P.S. §250.505-A, part of the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, as amended. Text of the Act may be found here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/PDF/2012/0/0129..PDF

While the waiting periods following notice may seem long, and the mechanism seemingly a bit over-complicated, the legislation should be appreciated by most landlords, because it now gives an enforceable means to determine what may truly be deemed “abandoned” property by departing tenants. Significantly, the statute reinforces the requirement that the tenant put the landlord on written notice of their forwarding address, and their intent to claim specific property left behind. For more information, please feel free to contact the undersigned.

Craig J. Fleischmann, Esquire