How to Dispose of A Tenant’s Personal Property Left In Rental Unit

At the end of a residential lease and tenancy in Oklahoma, most landlords and property managers are uncertain about what to do with any personal property left behind by the tenant. Oklahoma has unique legal requirements for handling abandoned property. Hint: There can be negative consequences for failing to comply with those requirements and the tenant may be able to sue the landlord for financial damages. 

Before discussing Oklahoma law on this topic, it is important to note that landlords and tenants may agree on a different set of rules for the abandoned property situation by making sure they have carefully defined terms in their written lease. If there are no specific terms on this subject in a written lease, or there is no written lease, Oklahoma’s default statutes will apply. 

Under the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ORLTA) (41 OS 101-201), if a tenant moves out of a rental property and leaves personal property behind, the landlord is typically required to separate the property into two different categories: (1) property without any ascertainable value, and (2) property with ascertainable value. See Section 130.

What is ascertainable value with personal property? Oklahoma statutes are not explicitly clear on this question. Cautious and careful landlords and property managers tend to define this category as anything that may be expensive or difficult for the tenant to replace. Good examples of property with ascertainable value could be car keys, vehicle titles, birth or death certificates, marriage licenses, and physical family photos or keepsakes. 

What is personal property without ascertainable value? Again, the statutes are not clear, but one could assume that this category would include items like dishes, cleaning supplies or products, small or old furniture, and clothing. 

When the landlord or property manager determines that some personal property has ascertainable value, they typically must store the property for a minimum of thirty days while attempting to make reasonable efforts to contact the tenant. “Reasonable efforts” could be sending a certified letter to the tenant’s last known address, or contacting the tenant by phone, text message, or email. If the tenant wishes to claim the abandoned property, landlords are entitled to charge a reasonable fee for storage of the abandoned items. 

After the conclusion of the holding period, most landlords will trash or donate the items left behind, but they are entitled to sell the property. Tenants may be able to sue the landlord for failing to follow Oklahoma law if the abandoned property is not disposed of correctly. 

In summary, abandoned personal property at the conclusion of a tenancy in Oklahoma can be a source of confusion and potential legal trouble for landlords, property managers, and tenants. 

For specific information or advice about your abandoned personal property situation, contact Avenue Legal Group. Our firm is knowledgeable and experienced in all landlord-tenant matters and can provide specific feedback to help you navigate your circumstances. 

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