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3 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make with Abandoned Rentals

What to Do with an Abandoned Rental Property in Phoenix, Arizona

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As a property manager, the last thing that you want to encounter is an abandoned rental property in Phoenix, Arizona.  This situation can lead to legal troubles, sorting through someone else’s possessions, and wondering if you will ever recoup your lost rent.
The scenario might start off like this: you’re on the 5th day of the month and you have not received the check from an otherwise timely tenant. You call and text the tenant and get no response. Finally, you conclude that the tenant must have abandoned the property.
If you think your Phoenix rental property is abandoned, don’t panic. We’ll show you some of the biggest mistakes property managers make with this ordeal — and how to properly handle the process.
 

How Do You Know When a Rental Property Is Abandoned?

First, the determination of abandonment in a rental unit comes down to several legal definitions.
In the state of Arizona, there are two scenarios where the state considers a property abandoned. This is outlined in Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) § 33-1370.

  • The tenant is absent from your Phoenix property without informing you for a total of 7 days
  • There is no evidence of a tenant occupying the unit after this length of time other than personal property
  • Rent is past due for a minimum of 10 days

Keep in mind that a tenant does not technically have to inform property managers if they go on vacation. However, if this is the case, you may still notice mail delivery or someone checking on the unit.
Another option is to ask neighboring tenants if they have seen the tenant. They may have an idea if the tenant moved out without notifying you. They could have heard the tenant move out in the middle of the night.
Whether you do or don’t believe the tenant is on vacation, follow this 10-day rule. When the tenant is 10 days late (or more) on their rent without evidence of someone occupying the unit, it is considered abandoned.
 

Your Phoenix Rental Property is Abandoned: Now What?

If the unit is in fact abandoned, there is still a set of rules to follow before regaining possession of your property. This is where landlords and property managers typically trip up with abandoned rental property in Phoenix.
This leads us to mistake #1.
 

Mistake #1: Entering the Property Too Soon

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All landlords know that you generally can’t enter a tenant’s property without permission. This also applies when the property is abandoned — at least for a specified amount of time and with proper notice.
Even if a witness can confirm beyond a doubt that the tenant moved out, this isn’t the time to walk into the unit and change the locks. After you wait the 7-to-10 days to determine the property is abandoned, the correct action is to give notice of abandonment.
 

What is Notice of Abandonment?

The next step after abandonment is posting a Notice of Abandonment. This is typically posted in an obvious area as well as certified mail with return receipt requested.
A Notice of Abandonment informs the tenant that they must clear their belongings within a specified timeframe. In Arizona, this is five days. Five days after the notice is posted and mailed, the landlord is allowed to take possession of the property.
If the tenant does not respond within this timeframe, the landlord is allowed to re-rent the unit if there are no personal items at the property.
Speaking to an attorney is a wise idea if you are unsure about entering. An attorney can give you an overview on your rights and ensure that you are able to enter the unit.
However, once you enter, you may or may not find personal possessions left behind.
If there are belongings on the premises, this often results in mistake #2.
 

Mistake #2: Taking Possession of a Tenant’s Items

Once you enter the unit, you walk inside to find clothing, furniture, and many other personal belongings.
By now, you are probably feeling overwhelmed, angry, or confused. While your first reaction may be to gather all items and toss them in the dumpster, there are still laws to follow.
The first move is to take an inventory of items left inside the unit. The tenant should be notified of these items remaining on the property along with the cost of storage.
You might want to think about bringing a witness with you when you first enter. This is so the tenant can’t try to claim that you stole expensive items. It’s not a law, but something that can be helpful if there are issues about missing property.
However, it is the law in Arizona to store the personal property of the tenant. You can store these items in an unoccupied dwelling, including the abandoned rental unit. These items must remain in place for 14 days. Please be aware that the time period used to be 10 calendar days, but it was recently amended.
You are not required to store perishable items, plants, or animals on the tenant’s behalf. You may release animals to a shelter or boarding facility. Contact information must be stored for your chosen facility or shelter so the tenant can retrieve the animal. If you do not release the animal, it is law that the landlord provides it with reasonable care.
Any items that are a biohazard or considered a safety risk may be removed immediately.
Now that you have sorted through personal items, you might be wondering what to do with items of value. This leads us to the final mistake #3.
 

Mistake #3: Incorrectly Removing Possessions

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There are several ways you are allowed to get rid of a tenant’s personal belongings. Arizona allows you to sell or donate items to a qualified organization. Any items perceived as low value can be thrown away.
When it comes to selling the items, you must retain the proceeds and apply to the tenant’s balance owed. Any remaining balance should be mailed to the tenant at their last known address. If the mail is undeliverable, the state requests that the landlord holds the proceeds for the tenant for an unspecified amount of time.
While you are allowed to sell a tenant’s personal belongings, the state of Arizona does not allow you to simply keep the money. It’s important to document the items sold and at what cost. This provides you with a paper trail.
If there is a tax benefit for donating certain items, the benefit belongs to the tenant.
 

No Time to Deal with an Abandoned Rental Property in Phoenix?

Real Property Management Phoenix Valley is your local expert at dealing with abandoned rental properties. Our team can also help you get empty or abandoned units rented with an average 99% occupancy rate.
For help with managing your rental property in Phoenix, please contact us today for a quote.