Having your rental unit abandoned is more than an annoyance for a landlord, it can cost precious rental income. Oregon landlords will be interested to know that there is a procedure for all aspects of dealing with an abandoned rental unit. Complying with these procedures will help ensure that the landlord is back rerenting the property and recouping lost income as soon as possible.
Oregon landlords are allowed to charge an abandonment fee if the tenant abandons the unit without cause and is under a fixed term lease. The fee can be up to 1.5x the monthly rent amount. However, once an abandonment fee is charged the landlord may not recover unpaid rent for the remainder of the agreement term beyond the date the landlord became aware of the abandonment. In addition, by charging an abandonment fee the landlord forfeits the right to recover damages related to a vacancy while trying to rerent the premises to a new tenant.
Abandoned Personal Property
What happens if the tenant who abandoned the unit also left behind personal property? Oregon law painstakingly details the procedures for dealing with abandoned personal property. O.R.S. § 90.425 is the statute related to abandoned personal property and it is lengthy, but we have the highlights below:
Step 1: Providing Notice. The landlord is responsible for any abandoned personal property, and the first step for the landlord is to provide notice to the tenant of the presence of the abandoned personal property. Before the landlord can store, sell, or dispose of the property he must give a written notice to the tenant that must be either personally delivered, sent via first class mail to the premises, a post office box belonging to the tenant, or to a forwarding address. The notice must contain the following information:
- the personal property is considered abandoned;
- the tenant, a lienholder, or owner must contact Landlord by a specified date to retrieve the personal property (date must be at least eight days after mailing a notice for personal property, and at least 45 days if the property is an RV, floating home, or manufactured dwelling);
- the personal property is stored at a place of safekeeping; if the property includes a manufactured dwelling or floating home, the dwelling or home must be stored on the rented space;
- the tenant, a lienholder, or owner may arrange for removal of the personal property by contacting the landlord at a specific telephone number or address on or before the date specified;
- the landlord will make the personal property available for removal by appointment and at reasonable times;
- if the personal property is considered to be abandoned, the landlord may require payment of removal and storage charges prior to releasing the personal property;
- if the personal property is considered to be abandoned after an eviction the landlord may not require payment of storage charges prior to releasing the personal property;
- if the tenant, a lienholder, or an owner fails to contact the landlord by the specified date, or makes contact and then fails to remove the personal property within 30 days for recreational vehicles, manufactured dwellings and floating homes or 15 days for all other personal property, the landlord can sell or dispose of the personal property.
Step 2: Storage of property. Once the notice is provided to the tenant the landlord must store the property while waiting for the tenant to respond. A manufactured dwelling, recreational vehicle, or floating home must be stored on the premises. Any other abandoned property (other than rotting food or abandoned animals) must be stored for safekeeping and reasonable care must be taken to ensure the property. For pets or livestock the landlord should contact an animal control agency to arrange for their removal. The landlord can charge the tenant for reasonable or actual storage costs, including any costs incurred to remove the abandoned property to a place of storage.
Step 3: Tenant’s response and landlord remedies. If the tenant contacts the landlord within the designated time period and wishes to remove the property, then the landlord must make the personal property available for removal by appointment and at reasonable times during the 15 days from the date of the tenant’s response (30 days in the case of a recreational vehicle, manufactured dwelling or floating home). The property is presumed to be abandoned, with no further rights to the property, if the tenant or owner/lienholder of the property does not claim the property within the designated time period, and the landlord has several options available to deal with the property:
- Sell the property. Abide by the procedures for sale as outlined in O.R.S. § 90.425.
- Destroy or dispose of the property. The landlord can destroy or dispose of the property based on value threshholds. For a manufactured dwelling, recreational vehicle, or floating home the value is $8,000 or less. For personal property the value is $1,000 or less, or if the value is so low that the cost of storage and a public sale probably exceeds the amount that would be realized from the sale.
- Combination of sale and disposal. The landlord can sell some items and dispose of others, at his discretion and subject to the value limitations.
The procedures for dealing with abandoned personal property are lengthy and specific and should be understood by a careful review of the statute, O.R.S. § 90.425.