As a property manager, part of your role is to oversee the moving process for residents moving in and out. Typically, you will be aware in advance when this is going to occur. This allows you to complete the necessary maintenance tasks between residents, and helps ensure that you have had the opportunity to collect any rent or fees that may be outstanding.

However, things do not always go so smoothly – particularly not with today’s economy, when individuals are struggling to pay their bills, including their rent. In some circumstances, people choose to abandon the property outright, rather than dealing with the immediate consequences of having to pay outstanding rent and face embarrassment.

When dealing with an abandoned unit, there are a number of steps that you need to take.

1. Check The Lease To Verify How “Abandonment” Was Defined
This should be a component of any lease. Legally, the situation has to meet the outlined criteria before further action can be taken. This is can be complicated matter. Some residents may take everything and leave the keys to the property behind. Others may leave behind their furniture and personal belongings, but take the keys with them. People aren’t always thinking rationally in these circumstances, so there is no way to anticipate what their actions may be when choosing to abandon their residence.

2. Do An Investigation
You can’t simply decide that a resident who has not paid their rent has abandoned the property. You need to issue a 3-day notice, as well as an abandonment notice. If the resident doesn’t respond to either, check to see if their vehicles are still on the property. Also, try contacting them via any information that you have on file for them.

3. Have The Property Declared Abandoned

If the property meets the abandonment criteria of the lease and you have attempted to contact the resident to no avail, then the property can be declared abandoned. However, it is typically necessary to have a public notice issued.

4. Verify Your State Laws For Unclaimed Property
Most states require that you hold onto any personal belongings left in the property for a set period of time in case the residents decide to claim it. Failing to do so could lead to legal complications.

5. Document Everything

While going through the process, ensure that you document all actions you take and all things you observe with regards to the abandoned property. This data offers you protection should anything be contested. Rental property management software can help simplify this process.