An abandoned rental unit, while not the most common occurrence may be something that you have to deal with. If your unit appears to be abandoned there are several steps you need to take as a landlord.
The first step is to determine if the unit is truly abandoned, or if the tenant has just left for an extended period of time and forgot to provide notice to you. A tenant’s abandonment may be determined in several ways, such as the tenant returning the keys, removal of most of tenant’s property, actual notice by the tenant or an extended absence of the tenant with rent owing. The next steps include mitigating your damages resulting from the abandonment, and reviewing Wyo. Stat. § 1-21-1210, which addresses the procedure for handling any personal property left behind in an abandonment.
Mitigation of Damages
A landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent the premises that has been abandoned at a fair rental rate. When the premises is re-rented and the new rental term begins before the expiration of the existing rental agreement then the original rental agreement terminates as of the date of the new tenancy. However, if the landlord does not use reasonable efforts to rent the premises at a fair rental or if the landlord accepts the abandonment as a surrender, the rental agreement is considered terminated by the landlord as of the date the landlord has notice of the abandonment.
Once regaining possession of the premises it can be presumed that any property remaining on the premises has been abandoned, and the landlord can dispose of any property that is deemed to have no value. The landlord can also remove any valuable property and may dispose of it with certain notice requirements.
- A written notice must be sent to tenant. The written notice must describe the property claimed to be abandoned. The notice must also state that the property will be disposed of after seven days if the tenant or someone acting for tenant does not take possession of the property within those seven days. The tenant can also notify the landlord, in writing, of his intent to take possession of the property. Please refer to Wyo. Stat. § 1-21-1210 for more specifics about notice requirements.
- No written response from tenant - the property is deemed abandoned if the landlord does not get a written response from the tenant within the seven day period. The landlord can then retain or dispose of the property.
- Written response from tenant - If the tenant does respond in writing within the seven day period and indicates that they wish to retrieve the property, the landlord must hold the property for an additional seven days. If after that extended time the tenant fails to take possession the landlord can retain or dispose of the property, without further liability.
- Landlord is entitled to payment of storage costs, plus the cost of removing the property to the place of storage. Landlord is allowed reasonable storage costs if the landlord stores the property himself, or actual storage costs if the property is stored commercially. The tenant must pay the storage costs before removing the property.