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A. What is abandonment?
The Indiana Code states that “a tenant’s personal property is considered abandoned if a reasonable person would conclude that the tenant has vacated the premises and has surrendered possession of the personal property.” Courts will look at many factors to determine abandonment, but the biggest factors are: beds, clothing, and food. If these items are missing from the property, a court is more likely to determine that the property has been abandoned.
B. What if the tenant abandons the property in the middle of the lease agreement or before the Possession Hearing?
If the “reasonable person” standard described above is met, you are safe to re-enter and re-take possession of the property in order to secure and protect your property.
C. What do I do with all of the tenant’s stuff?
The Indiana Code states that if a tenant abandons his/her personal property and the landlord is awarded possession of the property, the landlord may seek a Court Order approving the removal of the tenant’s personal property. The landlord must store the property in a Court-approved warehouseman or storage facility and give the tenant notice and a reasonable amount of time to recover the personal property. A landlord is entitled to be reimbursed by the tenant for moving and storage costs.
The best practice for a landlord when a tenant’s personal property is abandoned is to take an inventory of what was abandoned. Take photos and make a list of items (e.g., 1 box of men’s clothing; 1 box of kitchen utensils; etc.). What you are trying to guard against is having a tenant accuse you of throwing away his/her grandfather’s gold watch or another item of significant value.
D. What if the tenant never claims the abandoned personal property?
The Indiana Code states that “if a tenant does not claim the tenant’s property within ninety (90) days after receiving notice…a warehouseman or storage facility may sell the property received…” In other words, after you have complied with the requirements of the statutes, you are free to discard or keep the personal property.