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California Civil Code section 1951.3 allows landlords to reclaim their rental property when they discover that the tenant has abandoned it. You must make a reasonable assumption that the property is abandoned. Examples of a reasonable assumption of abandonment include overdue rent, terminated utilities, empty closets and refrigerators, and a statement from a neighbor witnessing the the tenant moving. Take detailed notes of what you hear and see as you determine whether the rental property is actually abandoned.
Once you determine that the rental unit is abandoned and the rent is 14 days overdue, you can file a legal notice known as a Notice of Belief of Abandonment. This document outlines the reasons you believe the property is abandoned. It also gives the tenant 18 days to respond to you. The notice must warn the tenant that if you do not hear from him by the deadline, you will assume abandonment and will reclaim the property. Make a copy of the notice for your records, then mail the notice to the tenant's last known address. Mail some copies to any other emergency contacts for the tenant that you may have on file.
If the tenant has not contacted you after 18 days, you can enter the rental property and secure it by changing the locks and changing any security or alarm codes. Take the time to inspect the property for damages caused by the tenant. You can deduct any rent owed and the cost to repair damages from the tenant's security deposit. Mail an itemized list of deposit deductions to the tenant's last known address. You can now prepare the rental property for new tenants and begin advertising and screening applications.
If the tenant has left some personal property behind, you must store it for a period of time. Document each item thoroughly. Mail a written notice to the tenant's last known address that gives a description of the property, an 18-day deadline to claim it, a reasonable storage fee that must be paid in order to get the property, and what will happen to the possession if it is not claimed. If the tenant doesn't claim it, you must determine its value. If the value is less than $300, you may keep it or dispose of it. If the value is greater than $300, California law says you must contact the county treasurer and arrange to auction it.
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