Ridout Barron


Real estate: What happens with a tenant's abandoned goods?

Owners of rental properties in Alberta often have to deal with goods left behind after tenants abandon a rental unit or vacate the property after the expiration of the lease. This could be a dilemma because the real estate owner has to comply with the Residential Tenancies Act, which sets out the steps a proprietor must take. Each situation is unique, and the property owner must be sure that the tenant has no plans to return before the goods can be deemed abandoned.

A landlord can suspect abandonment if the tenant does not respond to calls or remains unreachable for a significant length of time. If the tenant has failed to pay rent and his or her mail is accumulating and not collected -- or mail delivery has ceased, it could indicate that the tenant has no intention of returning. The property owner might even find that the utilities to the rental unit have been disconnected.

The owner of the property must not take action to deal with the abandoned goods of a tenant before making sure that the tenant does not plan to return to the rental unit. Sometimes, the signs of abandonment might be misleading, and if the tenant returns, he or she might hold the landlord responsible for lost, destroyed or damaged property. Furthermore, if it is established that the tenant will not come back, the RTA specifies how to deal with abandoned goods.

Under certain circumstances, property exceeding a particular monetary value must remain in storage for 30 days before it can be sold or otherwise removed. It might be prudent for a property owner in Alberta to seek legal counsel if he or she suspects that a tenant has abandoned rental property. A lawyer with knowledge and experience in all facets of real estate can explain the legal rights of the property owner and suggest the most appropriate way to proceed.

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Ridout Barron

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