April 1, 2021
What to Do When There Are Tenants Who Leave Things

As a landlord, you need to know the proper way to handle a tenant leaving behind property. Here are some things to determine that will help you along - read this blog now!

If you haven’t been a landlord for long, you may think it’s perfectly okay to just throw out everything a tenant has left behind. You would be mistaken, as the laws surrounding ownership can be a bit complicated. As a landlord, you need to know the proper way to handle a tenant leaving behind property.

Here are some things to determine that will help you along:

How did the tenant leave?

The first thing you should do when you discover a tenant has left behind belongings is to note how they left. Don’t just start throwing out their belongings or selling them. What you must do next depends entirely on the manner of their leaving. For example:

  • The tenant’s lease ended before they moved out. Should the tenant’s lease end before they move out and they leave belongings behind, the landlord gains some rights to the tenant’s belongings. This includes disposing of it all.
  • The tenant was served with a notice of termination of the lease. If your tenant left on time after they were served with a notice, then you might have the right to dispose of the tenant’s belongings.
  • The tenant left without notifying you. If your tenant left without notifying you beforehand, they may still have rights to their belongings. Check local laws before you do anything with the property. For example, for rental property management laws in Ottawa, things may be different.
  • The tenant was evicted. Should your tenant be evicted and leave any belongings behind, rely on local law enforcement that usually handles evictions. They will determine what property you may dispose of or sell.

What were the rental agreements?

Check your rental terms and agreements before you even touch their left-behind belongings. Sometimes, your contract can tell you what to do in this situation. If you have anything in your contract pertaining to these belongings, such as a fee for disposing of a previous tenant’s items, you can act on it. 

Consider adding a clause about left-behind property to future tenants should your contract not already have one. It can be costly to have to get rid of furniture or even cars. A few things to consider adding to this clause are:

  • Property removal responsibility: Part of the clause which states that the tenant is responsible for the removal of any of their left behind items
  • Disposal fee: Part of the clause that states there is a fee should there be anything to dispose of when the tenant moves out
  • Storage agreement: Part of the clause that gives tenants a grace period before they must get their things back

What does the law say?

As a property owner, you’ll want to know local and federal laws about your rights and tenant’s rights. To do so, you can look online, contact a landlord’s association, or even consult a lawyer. Or, you could just hire someone with experience to do rental property management for you.


There are many things to take into account when trying to find out what you can do with a tenant’s left-behind property. Local laws, how the tenant left, state laws, your contract, etc.—all these things have an effect on how you handle left-behind property. There’s a lot to keep track of, so be sure to either note these things down in a notebook or hire professionals to handle the property management for you.

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