In September 2012, a new Pennsylvania law will go into effect that sets out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants concerning maintenance and retrieval of personal property left behind by tenants.
The law requires that tenants remove all personal property once they have “relinquished possession” of their rented premises. Possession is relinquished when either: (1) An order of possession was executed in favor of the landlord, or (2) The tenant physically vacated the premises, removed substantially all of his personal property, and provided a forwarding address (or written notice that he has vacated).
Once the tenant has relinquished possession and the landlord accepts it, the tenant has 10 days to inform the landlord of his intention to remove his personal property. If he does, then the landlord must retain the personal property for 30 days. But if the tenant does not, then the landlord may dispose of the personal property after the 10-day period expires.
After the landlord accepts the premises and until the expiration of the 10- or 30-day periods, the landlord must exercise ordinary care over the personal property left behind by the tenant.
Landlord’s Removal and Storage of Tenant’s Personal Property
If the landlord issued notice, then he may remove the tenant’s personal property by any means reasonably calculated to safeguard it and store it at another location within reasonable proximity to the rented premises.
If the tenant retrieves his personal property within 10 days of the notice’s postmark, he will not be required to pay any costs related to the landlord’s removal or storage. But, if the tenant retrieves his personal property after 10 days and before 30 days, he will be required to pay any reasonable and actual costs.
Landlord’s Disposal of Tenant’s Personal Property
After the expiration of the 10- or 30-day time period, the landlord will have no further responsibility to the tenant regarding his abandoned personal property and may dispose of it. But, if the landlord sells the personal property, and the proceeds exceed the tenant’s outstanding obligations owed to him, he must send the proceeds to the tenant at his forwarding address by certified mail. If the tenant did not leave a forwarding address, then the landlord must hold the proceeds for 30 days, and may retain them if unclaimed.
Scenario #1: Order of Possession Executed in Favor of Landlord
If the landlord accepts possession of the premises and the order of possession contains notice, then the landlord is not required to provide further notice to the tenant. The statute does not specifically address the situation where the order of possession does not contain notice.
Scenario #2: Tenant Physically Vacated, Removed Substantially All Personal Property, and Provided a Forwarding Address (or Written Notice that He has Vacated)
If the landlord accepts possession of the premises and the tenant physically vacated, removed substantially all personal property, provided a forwarding address (or written notice that he has vacated), and the lease (or lease addendum) contains notice, then the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant.
- Statement that the tenant’s personal property remains and must be retrieved
- Statement that the tenant has 10 days from the notice’s postmark to notify the landlord that he will be retrieving his personal property
- Telephone number where the landlord can be contacted
- Address where the landlord can be contacted
- Location where the personal property can be retrieved
- Statement that the tenant shall be required to pay costs related to the removal or storage of his personal property if he retrieves it after 10 days
- The notice must be sent by regular mail to the tenant’s forwarding address (or if not provided, then to his formerly leased premises) or personal delivery to the tenant
If the lease (or lease addendum) does not contain notice, then along with these notice requirements, the landlord must also send the notice to any emergency contact that the tenant provided in the lease agreement.
This was only a summary, and the full text of the new law should be consulted.
General Tips for Tenants: Tenants should not leave behind any personal property. If they do, they should retrieve it within 10 days to avoid costs. If they are unable to retrieve it within 10 days, they should give the landlord notice within 10 days and retrieve their personal property within 30 days.
General Tips for Landlords: Landlords should make certain that all orders of possession and future leases contain the required notice. They should also amend all current leases to include the notice.