What To Do As A Manager Of An Abandoned Property
Have you seen your tenant around lately? Is the mail piling up in the mailbox? When was the last time you got the rent payment from them? As a property manager, there are times when one of your tenants might disappear without notice and not come back. When a property becomes abandoned like this, there are several steps you as the manager need to take to deal with this situation. Some of them are obvious, some are unpleasant, but all of them need to happen if you want to start making money from the abandoned house or apartment.
1. Make Sure The Unit Is Abandoned
Tenants can suddenly disappear for a number of reasons. They may be trying to escape a situation, they might have been arrested, or they might have gone to the hospital. In some cases they’ll be back as soon as they can, but in others they’re gone for good. As the property manager you need to find out whether that’s the case, and there are several ways to check:
- If rent payments are coming in, you should consider the unit occupied even if they don’t come back for months. You have a right to inspect and maintain the property in their absence (and you should make this clear in the lease), but if they make their lease payments the property is not abandoned.
- Speak with neighbors or emergency contacts. They may know what’s happened to your tenant even if they weren’t able to tell you.
- Look for rotten food or other signs of decay. If everything inside is in good shape, they may be coming in and out when you aren’t around.
- Check the utilities. If the electricity or heat is off, that’s a big sign the property is completely abandoned.
2. Secure Any Personal Property
While a tenant gives up their lease rights when they stop payments and abandon the property, they don’t necessarily forfeit everything they leave behind. When you declare a property abandoned, you should inform the renter and their family and give them an opportunity to collect their things. You may want to move the things to a storage unit so you can get the unit ready for a new tenant quickly. However, if no one collects the personal property after a grace period, you can donate or sell it as needed.
3. Document Everything
A tenant may turn up eventually expecting their rental the way they left it, so you need to protect yourself from any lawsuits that may come up. Put an abandonment clause in the lease, send a warning letter and make a copy, take photos of the property before you touch anything, and keep records of any conversations you have with neighbors and other contacts. This will back up any claims you have to make in court.
Rental properties are money sinks without someone in them. As a property manager, you can’t afford to keep a unit waiting if no one’s paying the rent, so sometimes you need to take action. Be careful, document everything, and give the renter every chance you can, but move forward when you need to.