What to do with your rental that has been abandoned? The first thing to do is conclusively determine that it’s been abandoned, and that your tenant is not just on some long vacation that they forgot to tell you about. When your rental is abandoned it can difficult to actually determine abandonment. In Tennessee the guidelines for determining abandonment are straightforward.

  • Tenant’s unexplained or extended absence from the premises for 30 days or more without payment of rent.
  • Tenant’s nonpayment of rent for 15 days past the rental due date, together with other reasonable factual circumstances indicating they have permanently vacated the premises, such as the removal of substantially all of their possessions and personal effects, or tenant’s voluntary termination of utility service to the premises.

Procedure after abandonment

In the first case above, when the tenant’s absence extends to 30 days or more and rent is unpaid, the landlord can re-enter the unit and take possession, with no additional action required. In the case where rent is unpaid for only 15 days but the circumstances suggest abandonment, the landlord must follow a specific procedure that requires written notice to the tenant. The landlord must post a notice at the premises and also send the notice to the tenant by regular mail at the rental premises address.

The notice must include the following statements, along with the phone number and address where the landlord may be contacted:

  • Landlord has reason to believe that the unit is abandoned.
  • Landlord intends to re-enter and take possession of the premises, unless contacted by the tenant within 10 days of the posting and mailing of the notice.
  • If the tenant fails to contact the Landlord within the 10 day period the landlord will remove all remaining possessions and personal effects and will re-rent the premises.
  • If the tenant does not reclaim the possessions and personal effects within 30 days of landlord taking possession of the personal property the Landlord will dispose of tenant’s possessions and personal effects.

Treatment of personal property

Whenever the landlord determines abandonment and takes possession of the rental, the personal property left behind must stored for at least 30 days. During that 30 day period the tenant can reclaim their possessions. Tennessee law does not include a requirement that the tenant pays for any storage costs. If the tenant does not reclaim the possessions and personal effects within the 30 day period the landlord can sell or dispose of the personal property and apply the proceeds of the sale to the unpaid rents, damages, storage fees, sale costs and attorney’s fees. Any balance remaining must be held by Landlord for a period of six months after the sale.