How Long Can Someone Leave Their Belongings On Your Property?

How Long Can Someone Leave Their Belongings On Your Property

How long can someone leave their belongings on your property?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • how long someone can leave their belongings on your property (in each state)
  • how police define abandoned property and belongings
  • what are the laws on abandoned property, their rights, and your rights
  • trespassing vs abandonment and what to do
  • what to do if someone leaves their belongings on your property

Let’s dig in. 

Table of Contents

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How Long Can Someone Leave Their Belongings On Your Property?

The time frame during which someone can leave their belongings on your property varies based on local laws and regulations. 

How long someone can leave belongings on your property depends on:

  • the situation
  • local laws
  • regulations

Here is generally how long someone can leave belongings at your house:

  • Tenant Moving Out: Local landlord-tenant laws usually dictate this. In many places, landlords must give notice and allow between 15 to 30 days for former tenants to retrieve their belongings.
  • Breakup or Divorce: This may depend on ownership rights and legal separation agreements. It’s best to consult a family law attorney. In some cases, 30 days is a reasonable time frame.
  • Houseguests: If belongings are left unintentionally, it’s a courtesy to inform them immediately. If they were staying as a guest without a formal agreement, giving them 7 to 14 days to retrieve their items is reasonable.
  • Abandoned Vehicles: Local laws govern this. Sometimes you may be able to have the vehicle towed immediately, or you might need to give notice and allow a set number of days for removal.
  • Storage Agreement: If there was an agreement, the terms should be followed. If no specific terms were set, providing a 30-day notice to remove the items is generally reasonable.
  • Garage or Yard Sales: Communicate immediately and set a short deadline (such as 48 hours) for pickup, as these sales are usually understood to be cash-and-carry transactions.
  • Contractor’s Equipment: Inform the contractor immediately. Usually, a few days to a week is reasonable for the contractor to retrieve their equipment.
  • Lost Items: If you know whose item it is, inform them immediately. If not, local laws may have guidelines on how to deal with lost property.
  • Eviction: This is governed by local landlord-tenant laws. Typically, there are strict regulations regarding how and when a landlord can remove a tenant’s belongings.
  • Estate Handling: The timeline for settling an estate can be lengthy and is usually governed by probate laws. This might take several months to a year or more.
  • Abandonment: If someone leaves items they don’t want on your property, you might be required to give notice before disposing of them. This might range from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Temporary Leave: If someone temporarily leaves belongings with the intention of returning but fails to, it’s reasonable to give them notice and wait around 15 to 30 days.

How Long Someone Can Leave Their Belongings On Your Property In Each State

StateNotice Delivery MethodTime for Tenant to Claim PropertyProperty Code
AlabamaRegular Mail14 daysAlabama Code § 35-9A-423
AlaskaRegular Mail15 daysAlaska Stat. § 34.03.260
ArizonaRegular Mail20 daysArizona Revised Statutes § 33-1370
ArkansasRegular Mail10 daysArkansas Code Title 18. Property § 18-16-108
CaliforniaRegular Mail18 daysCalifornia Civil Code § 1983
ColoradoPosted On Property15 daysColo. Rev. Stat. § 38-20-116
ConnecticutRegular Mail30 daysConn. Gen. Stat. § 47a-11b
DelawareRegular Mail7 daysDelaware Code Title 25, § 5507
FloridaRegular Mail15 daysFlorida Statutes § 715.104
GeorgiaRegular Mail30 daysCode of Georgia Annotated § 44-7-55
HawaiiRegular Mail15 daysHawaii Revised Statutes § 521-56
KansasRegular Mail30 daysKansas Statutes § 58-2565
MaineRegular Mail7 daysMaine Revised Statutes Title 14, § 6013
MinnesotaRegular Mail28 daysMinnesota Statutes § 504B.271
MissouriRegular Mail10 daysMissouri Revised Statutes § 441.065
NebraskaRegular Mail14 daysNebraska Revised Statute 69-2303
NevadaCertified Mail30 daysNevada Revised Statutes § 118A.460
New HampshirePosted On Property7 daysNew Hampshire Revised Statutes § 540-A:3, VII
New MexicoRegular Mail30 daysNMSA 1978, § 47-8-34.1
North CarolinaPosted On Property30 daysNorth Carolina General Statutes § 42-25.9, § 42-36.2
North DakotaRegular Mail28 daysNorth Dakota Century Code § 47-16-30.1
OklahomaRegular Mail30 daysOklahoma Statutes Title 41, § 130
OregonRegular Mail5-8 daysOregon Revised Statutes § 90.425
PennsylvaniaRegular Mail10 days68 P.S. §§ 250.505a
South DakotaPosted On Property30 daysSD Codified L § 43-32-25, 43-32-26
TennesseeRegular Mail30 daysTenn. Code § 66-28-405
TexasRegular MailAbout 30 daysTex. Prop. Code § 93.002
UtahRegular Mail15 daysUtah Code § 78B-6-816
VermontCertified MailNot SpecifiedVt. Stat. tit. 9 § 4462
WashingtonRegular Mail45 daysWash. Rev. Code § 59.18.310
West VirginiaCertified Mail30 daysW. Va. Code § 37-6-6
WyomingCertified Mail7 daysWyo. Stat. § 1-21-1210

There are states missing in this list. 

When we did our research, there was no time frame specified. 

For those states, some issues we found were that:

  • The state laws do not provide detailed requirements regarding the delivery method of the notice or the time frame for tenants to claim the abandoned property.
  • The requirements might be determined on a case-by-case basis, or by local ordinances and regulations within different jurisdictions in the state.
  • There might be general guidelines or common practices, but they are not codified in state law.

Let’s say that you are in a state that’s not mentioned. 

Your safest route is to:

  • send a notice via Certified Mail and keep the receipts
  • give them 30 days
  • consult an attorney

What Is Abandoned Property?

Abandoned property is when:

  • someone leaves their belongings on your property 
  • doesn’t intend to come back for them 

The owner gives up rights to these items. 

In this situation, you need to follow local laws to deal with the belongings. 

This often includes:

  • contacting the owner (if possible)
  • giving them a chance to collect the items 

If they don’t collect them, local laws might let you sell, donate, or throw away the belongings after a certain time. 

It’s important to handle abandoned property responsibly to avoid legal issues.

What Is The Law On Abandoned Property?

The laws on abandoned property can vary by jurisdiction and context. 

Here are a few common areas where abandoned property laws are applied:

  • Landlord-Tenant Laws: When a tenant leaves property behind after moving out, landlords must often follow specific procedures. This typically involves notifying the tenant, storing the property for a set period, and then, if the property is not claimed, disposing of it according to local law.
  • Lost Property: This refers to property that is unintentionally left behind. Generally, someone who finds lost property is expected to make reasonable efforts to return it to the owner. If the owner cannot be found, the finder may be allowed to keep the property after a certain period.
  • Vehicles: Abandoned vehicles are generally handled by local law enforcement. If a vehicle is left on public property, it may be impounded, and if not claimed within a certain time, it may be sold or scrapped.

What Are Belongings?

Belongings are items that someone owns and can move around, such as clothes, furniture, electronics, and tools. 

When someone leaves belongings on your property, it means they have placed or stored these items on your land or in your building. 

In this context, belongings do not include things that are part of the property itself, like a fence or a built-in cabinet.

“Belongings” can include a wide range of items, such as:

  • Clothing and Personal Items: This includes apparel, shoes, bags, jewelry, and other accessories.
  • Furniture and Appliances: Items such as chairs, tables, sofas, refrigerators, and washing machines.
  • Electronics: Including computers, mobile phones, televisions, and audio equipment.
  • Vehicles: Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and other means of transportation.
  • Tools and Equipment: Such as construction tools, lawnmowers, and other machinery.
  • Boxes and Containers: Often, belongings are stored in boxes or containers, which may include a variety of items.
  • Documents and Papers: Important documents, books, or files.
  • Household Items: Dishes, decorative items, linens, and other domestic goods.

Trespassing vs Abandonment When Someone Leaves Their Belongings

Trespassing and abandonment are two different issues when it comes to someone leaving belongings on your property.

Trespassing happens when someone enters or leaves items on your property without permission. 

If items are on your property because of trespassing, you can ask the person to remove them right away. 

If they don’t, you can call the police or take legal action.

Abandonment is when someone leaves items on your property and has no intention of coming back for them. 

This often happens after someone moves out. 

In this case, you usually have to give the person a notice and a reasonable amount of time to pick up their belongings. 

This time frame can be around 15 to 30 days, depending on local laws.

If you believe items are abandoned, send a clear written notice via Certified Mail. 

State the deadline for picking up the items. 

If the deadline passes and the items are still there, you can generally consider them abandoned and dispose of them.

Remember that handling someone’s belongings properly is important to avoid legal troubles. 

Follow the law, communicate clearly, and document your actions.

General Principles For How Long Someone Can Leave Their Belongings On Your Property

A reasonable time frame is the amount of time that is fair for someone to remove their belongings from your property. 

It depends on various factors such as:

  • the nature of the belongings
  • your relationship with the person
  • local laws 

For example, if a friend leaves a jacket at your house, a few days to a week is likely reasonable. 

In cases where a tenant moves out, laws often set a specific time frame, typically between 15 to 30 days. 

If someone leaves a vehicle on your property, local regulations might dictate the process and time frame. 

It’s crucial to communicate clearly with the person, provide written notice if needed, and document your actions to avoid legal issues.

Read More: Can You Tell Cops To Get Off Your Property

What To Do If Someone Leaves Their Stuff On Your Property

Let’s say someone leaves their belongings on your property.

It’s important to handle the situation cautiously and legally. 

Here are steps to take if someone leaves belongings on your property:

  1. Document the Property: Take photographs and make a list of the belongings that have been left on your property.
  2. Attempt to Contact the Owner: If you know who the owner is, try to contact them to inform them that they have left their belongings on your property and request that they remove them within a reasonable time frame. Doing this via Certified Mail gives you receipts of delivery of the notice. 
  3. Research Local Laws: Check your local laws regarding abandoned property. Laws vary depending on your location, and you need to know what steps are legally required. In some cases, you may need to provide written notice or hold the property for a certain period before you can dispose of it.
  4. Provide Written Notice if Required: If your local property abandonment laws require you to provide a written notice, make sure that you include all the necessary information and send it in the manner required by law. Keep a copy of this notice for your records.
  5. Store the Property Safely: While waiting for the owner to claim the belongings, or during the notice period, store the items safely and do not damage them. This could protect you from liability if the owner claims that their property was damaged while in your possession.
  6. Consult an Attorney or Legal Expert: Given that laws regarding abandoned property can be complex, it might be helpful to consult an attorney or legal expert for advice on how to proceed, especially if the property has significant value or if the owner is unresponsive.
  7. Dispose of the Property in Accordance with the Law: If the owner does not claim their belongings within the legally required time frame, dispose of the property in accordance with your local laws. This may involve selling, donating, or discarding the items.
  8. Keep Records: Throughout the process, keep records of all communication and actions taken, including photographs of the property, copies of notices sent, and any responses received.

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