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When is a property 'abandoned'? How to handle abandoned tenant property in a rental unit

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Over the last four years, the Pennsylvania legislature has taken steps to help landlords handle abandoned tenant property.

Pennsylvania Act 129 of 2012, which amended the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, provides, among other things, clarity for landlords as it relates to the disposal of a prior tenant’s personal property.

Act 129 of 2012 focused on two relatively limited circumstances under which a prior tenant’s personal property can be called “abandoned”:

  • upon execution of an order of possession in favor of the landlord; or
  • the tenant physically vacated the premises and provided a forwarding address or written notice stating that they had done so.

Unfortunately, Act 129 of 2012 did not address situations where the tenant abandoned the property without notice.

The Pennsylvania legislature, however, returned to the subject with Pennsylvania Act 167 of 2014, which became effective December 21 of that year. Act 167 of 2014 includes a form of notice to be used, and added three additional situations where the tenant may be deemed to have abandoned personal property:

  • the tenant has vacated the premises following the termination of a written lease;
  • an eviction order or order for possession has been entered and the tenant has vacated the premises and removed substantially all personal property; and
  • the tenant has vacated the premises without communicating an intent to return, the rent is more than 15 days past due and the landlord has posted a notice regarding the tenant’s rights regarding the personal property.

Furthermore, Act 167 of 2014 continued the requirement identified in Act 129 of 2012 that requires landlords to store abandoned property for 10 days after providing notice to the tenant. Moreover, the storage period may be extended to 30 days after the date of the notice if the tenant requests.

The Pennsylvania legislature continues to refine landlord/tenant law in the commonwealth. Whether you hire a property manager or self-manage, it is critical you remain abreast of applicable law. In my next post, I’ll address Pennsylvania Act 116 of 2016 and what it means for landlords facing the death of a tenant.

Ryan Colquhoun

Ryan Colquhoun - Broker/Partner, Harrisburg Property Management Group

Ryan Colquhoun, a founding member of Harrisburg Property Management Group, is a licensed Pennsylvania Real Estate Broker, as well as, a real estate investor for many years. His knowledge of property management is founded on years of experience facilitating thousands of residential lease transactions and providing ongoing full-service management.

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