If you find yourself with an abandoned rental property the first step is to determine if the tenant has truly abandoned your property. In Arizona “abandonment” is determined by two different scenarios, in either of which the property is considered abandoned:

  1. The absence of the tenant from the premises, without notice to the landlord for at least seven days, if rent is outstanding and unpaid for ten days and the only evidence of occupancy is the presence of tenant’s personal property, or:
  2. the absence of the tenant for at least five days, if the rent is outstanding and unpaid for five days and none of the tenant’s personal property is in the premises.

Notices and Remedies

It’s important to follow proper procedure when a property is abandoned. First, a notice of abandonment must be sent to the tenant by certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the tenant’s last known address (even if that is the abandoned unit) and to any of tenant’s alternate addresses known to the landlord. The landlord must also post a notice of abandonment on the door to the premises or any other conspicuous place on the property for five days.

If the landlord retakes the premises, the tenant’s security deposit can be applied to the payment of any accrued rent and other reasonable costs incurred by the landlord due to the tenant’s abandonment.

Then, if no personal property remains the landlord can retake the premises and re-rent it, but only five days after the notice of abandonment has been both posted and mailed. If the landlord retakes the premises, the tenant’s security deposit can be applied to the payment of any accrued rent and other reasonable costs incurred by the landlord due to the tenant’s abandonment. Even with abandonment, the landlord must make reasonable efforts to rent the premises at a fair rental amount.

Personal Property Left Behind

As you would expect, Arizona law dictates that there is some procedure to follow pertaining to the disposal of personal property left in an abandoned property. Any property with value must be stored, the tenant must be notified, and the landlord can move to sell the property and use the proceeds to cover his costs if the property is not claimed within the stated timeframe. Property with little to no value can be disposed of by the landlord if it is determined that the value is so low that the costs of moving, storing and conducting a public sale exceed the value of the property.

Sale of Property

If the landlord opts to store the property, the landlord must notify the tenant of the location of the personal property in the same manner used for notices about abandonment. The landlord must then hold tenant’s personal property for a period of ten days after the declaration of abandonment. If the tenant makes no reasonable effort to recover the property within this timeframe then the landlord may sell the property, retain the proceeds and apply them toward the outstanding rent or other costs which have been incurred by the landlord due to tenant’s abandonment. Any excess proceeds must be mailed to the tenant at their last known address. Importantly, the tenant has no right of access to the personal property until the removal and storage costs have been paid in full, except that the tenant may obtain clothing and the tools, apparatus and books of a trade or profession and any identification or financial documents, including all those related to the tenant’s immigration status, employment status, public assistance or medical care.

Following the proper procedure and keeping good records will always help the landlord. This is especially important with abandoned property in Arizona, because for twelve months after the sale the landlord must keep adequate records of the outstanding and unpaid rent and the sale of tenant’s personal property, and hold any excess proceeds which have been returned as undeliverable for the benefit of tenant. Finally, if the tenant notifies the landlord in writing on or before the date the landlord sells or disposes of the personal property that they intend to retrieve the personal property, the tenant has five days to reclaim the personal property. In order to reclaim the personal property the tenant must pay landlord for the cost of removal and storage of the property.