In most cases when a tenant vacates your rental unit they will take their property with them. If personal property is left behind then California has some laws governing the treatment of abandoned personal property. These can be found in Cal.Civ.Code §§1983-1989, which dictate the requirements for providing notice, storage, release, and sale of the abandoned property.

Notice

Once a landlord determines that there is abandoned personal property remaining at the premises he must provide written notice to the tenant and to any other person he believes to be the owner of the property. The notice must describe the property in enough detail so that it can be identified, and it must advise the person that is notified that reasonable costs of storage may be charged before the property is returned. In addition, the location where the property may be claimed, and the date before which the claim must be made should be in the notice. The date in the notice for claiming the property must be at least 15 days after the notice is personally delivered, or 18 days after being deposited in the mail. Email notification is an acceptable method of notice.

Storage And Release Of Property

The landlord has the option to keep the abandoned property in the unit that was vacated, or store the property in a place of safekeeping. If the owner of the property or anyone believed to be the owner of the property pays the storage costs and takes possession of the property within the timeframe specified in the notice, then the property is released with no further obligation from the landlord. If the personal property is not released and the notice stated that the personal property would be sold at a public sale, then the landlord can release the personal property to the former tenant if it’s claimed prior to the time it is to be sold and pays the storage costs, advertising, and sale that were incurred prior to the time the property is withdrawn from sale.

Sale Of Property

If the total value of the property is believed to be less than $700 then the landlord is not obligated to engage in a public sale and can retain the property for his own use or dispose of it in any manner.

If the personal property remains unclaimed after the period in the notice the landlord may sell the property at a public sale by competitive bidding. However, if the total value of the property is believed to be less than $700 then the landlord is not obligated to engage in a public sale and can retain the property for his own use or dispose of it in any manner. There are some specific requirements regarding the advertising of the public sale, so make sure to read through Cal.Civ.Code §1988 to understand the process.

Finally, after deducting the costs of storage, advertising, and sale, any balance of the proceeds of the sale which is not claimed by the former tenant or another owner must be paid into the treasury of the county in which the sale took place not later than 30 days after the date of sale. Still, the former tenant or other owner may claim the balance within one year from the date of payment to the county contacting the county treasurer or other official designated by the county.