While it might seem odd that a renter would simply abandon a rental without telling you, it’s not uncommon. For a variety of reasons a renter may just disappear, and the landlord is left figuring out what to do with property left behind, and reletting the unit. For landlords in Missouri there are some simple procedures to follow to confirm abandonment, mitigate damages, and deal with personal property left behind.
Evidence of Abandonment
The first step is to determine true abandonment, as the absence of your tenant may just mean they forgot to tell you they were leaving town for an extended period. Most leases will request that for any absence greater than seven days the tenant must inform the landlord of the extended absence. In either case, per Mo. Rev. Stat. § 441.065, a rented premises is deemed abandoned if the following four conditions are met:
- Landlord has a reasonable belief that the tenant has vacated the premises and intends not to return;
- the rent is due and has been unpaid for thirty days;
the landlord posts written notice on the premises and mails to the last known address of the tenant by both first class mail and certified mail, return receipt requested, a notice of landlord’s belief of abandonment. The notice shall include the following, where appropriate:
“The rent on this property has been due and unpaid for thirty consecutive days and the landlord believes that you have moved out and abandoned the property. The landlord may declare this property abandoned and remove your possessions from this unit and dispose of them unless you write to the landlord stating that you have not abandoned this unit within ten days of the landlord having both posted this notice on your door and mailing this notice to you. You should mail your statement by regular first class mail and, if you so choose, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to this address .......... (here insert landlord's name and street address)”; and
- tenant fails to either pay rent or respond in writing to landlord’s notice within ten days after both the date of the posting and deposit of such notice by either first class mail or certified mail, stating tenant’s intention not to abandon the premises.
Mitigation of Damages
The landlord typically has an obligation to mitigate damages from an abandoned rental. While Missouri law does not specifically state that the landlord is obligated to try to relet the unit, in all likelihood that is what will happen. And, depending on the jurisdiction, a landlord pleading with a judge for damages from the abandoned tenant may not get much sympathy if he failed to try to relet. However, if the property is abandoned the landlord can obtain possession of the premises in any manner provided by law. Furthermore, the landlord may relet the premises and hold the tenant liable for any difference between the rent that would have been paid and the net rent for the same period that was actually realized by reletting to a new tenant.
Personal property left behind
Per Mo. Rev. Stat. § 441.065, any property that the tenant leaves behind after abandoning the rental premises may be removed or disposed of by the landlord without liability to the tenant for such removal or disposition.