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When a tenant abandons your property: A Missouri landlord’s guide

An abandoned property in the middle of nowhere

It’s a setback that could affect rental property owners, whether they’re new to the business or veterans – when a tenant suddenly abandons a rental without telling the landlord. The latter is usually left in the cold, not knowing what to do with the property and all of the possessions left behind.

If you’re a landlord in Missouri, Missouri’s statute on the abandonment of rental premises (441.065) gives you pointers on what to do in this situation.

Conditions for abandonment

As a landlord, you can’t just remove a tenant’s possessions just because they haven’t shown up for a few days or have yet to pay rent. For a property to be considered truly abandoned, four conditions must be met:

  1. There is good reason to believe that the tenant does not intend to return the vacated property.
  2. The tenant has not paid rent for at least 30 days.
  3. A notice was sent to the tenant informing them that they have 10 days to indicate that they don’t intend to abandon the property. This notice should be posted at the rental property and mailed to the tenant’s last known address via both first-class mail and certified mail. It should state the following:

    “The rent on this property has been due and unpaid for 30 consecutive days and the landlord believes that you have moved out and abandoned the property. The landlord may declare this property abandoned and remove your possessions from this unit and dispose of them unless you write to the landlord stating that you have not abandoned this unit within ten days of the landlord having both posted this notice on your door and mailing this notice to you. You should mail your statement by regular first-class mail and, if you so choose, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to this address ______ (insert landlord’s name and street address).”

  4. The tenant neither pays the rent nor responds in writing within 10 days of sending the notice.

Rules for handling abandoned property and possessions

Even if a property is abandoned, you should attend to making repairs as soon as you can. The property should be prepared and ready for occupancy by the next tenants, whether you already have a new prospect or not.

As for a tenant’s abandoned possessions, a landlord can sell, give away, or simply throw these away. Still keep in mind to handle them with care. Be mindful not to damage them or leave them around just anywhere for anyone to steal.

When you should call a lawyer

If the abandoned property and the tenant’s possessions are especially valuable, or if you think that the tenant could cause future problems, it may be good to talk to a lawyer before doing anything. They will let you know if the property and possessions have been legally abandoned. Should you remove the tenant’s possessions, they can even help protect you from possible claims of theft or damage.

Handling abandoned properties can be tricky, but a knowledgeable real estate agent can help you proceed with your business with no legal hitches. Local property experts like the Cardinal Realty Group can help you out. They can also show you the best commercial properties for sale in St. Louis. Contact them at 636.225.0385 or Hal(at)CardinalRealtyGroup(dotted)com.