When a tenant moves out of an apartment but leaves personal belongings behind, the landlord may not dispose of the property without giving the tenant an opportunity to return to the apartment and remove the belongings. This applies even if the tenant owes rent and even if the tenant was legally evicted by the court.
In New Jersey, a law called the Abandoned Tenant Property Statute requires landlords to give written notice to former tenants if the landlord wants to dispose of property left by the tenants after they have moved out. The notice must state that the landlord considers the property left behind abandoned. The notice must give the tenant a time period in which to claim the property. This is 30 days after delivery of the landlord’s written notice; or 33 days after the notice is mailed, whichever comes first.
The notice must also inform the former tenant that, if the property is not removed, the landlord will sell it at a public or private sale or will dispose of or destroy the property if it has little or no value.
The landlord’s notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by receipted first class mail addressed to the tenant at his or her last known address or addresses. The landlord must mark the envelope “Please Forward.”
If the tenant wants her property back, she should immediately notify in writing the landlord that she intends to reclaim the property.. If the tenant does not notify the landlord in writing, then she must remove the property in the time set out in the landlord’s notice (as described above).
If the former tenant returns to recover his property, the landlord must make the property available for removal by the tenant without payment of any unpaid rent. However, the landlord may store the tenant’s property and, if the landlord pays for storage, the tenant must pay the storage charges before removing the property from the premises.
If the tenant fails to respond to the notice or fails to remove the property within the required amount of time, the landlord may dispose of it either by selling it at a public or private sale or by disposing of it if it has no value. If the landlord sells the property, he may deduct the reasonable costs of notice of the sale, storage, and any unpaid rent and charges not covered by the tenant’s security deposit, but then must give any remainder to the tenant with an itemized accounting.