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Questions about Unclaimed Property Laws

Based on individual state laws, property is referred to as “abandoned” or “unclaimed” if the property owner cannot be contacted by the “holder” of the property within a specified time period. This usually means around three years. Unclaimed property usually refers to such intangible, financial assets as money left in bank accounts, unclaimed wages, stock certificates, money orders, refunds, and utility deposits. However, landlords may also have specific questions about abandoned personal property—actual tangible property and belongings left behind after a tenant leaves.

Listed below are a few questions answered by lawyers on unclaimed tangible property.

I live in Florida and have unclaimed property worth more than $500 lying in the house that belongs to my tenant. What should I do with it?

Under Florida Stat. § 715. 04 et seq., here is what a landlord is required to do:

“The landlord must send a notice, to the place the tenant is expected to receive it, that (1) describes the property in sufficient detail for the tenant to identify it, (2) advises him that he has 10 days (15 days if the notice is mailed) to claim it, (3) appraises him of reasonable storage costs, and (4) tells him where to claim the property.

The notice must also inform him that unclaimed property of value will be sold at a public sale and property believed to be worth less than $500 will be kept, sold, or destroyed.

After deductions for storage, advertising, and the sale, landlords must turn over to the county any residual proceeds.”

What should you say when you post a notice of claim on an unclaimed property in California?

There is no specific kind of notice that needs to be on record. If there are unpaid taxes on the property, then you could write a statement saying that you have paid the taxes as of a particular date and taken physical possession of the property.

We live in Massachusetts and bought a building that used to be a bank. Is there any way we can get rid of the safe deposit boxes in the basement which are lying unclaimed?

If you cannot find the owners of the boxes, you could hand over the unclaimed property to the abandoned property division of the treasurer of Massachusetts.

For more information on this, visit the following links:
http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=treagencylanding&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Abandoned+Property+Information&L2=Abandoned+Property+Division&sid=Ctre
http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=treterminal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Abandoned+Property+Information&L2=Regulations&sid=Ctre&b=terminalcontent&f=abp_regs403&csid=Ctre

In Massachusetts, if a tenant moves out by choice but fails to take his belongings, how long does the landlord need to store the unclaimed property for?

Personal property in Massachusetts falls under the law and is not easy to dispose of. The landlord would need to store the items for at least six months, according to M.G.L. c. 239 §4. In the meantime, the landlord would have to inform the tenants about the storage unit in the written eviction notice and if the tenants offer a different storage location, the landlord would have to move the property there. Tenants would be responsible for all storage and moving costs with regard to their property. If the property is still unclaimed after six months, it can be sold by the storage company who can then keep the proceeds.

Unclaimed personal property can be an unnecessary hassle and inconvenience for any landlord as it becomes the landlord’s responsibility to dispose of it. State laws also differ on how long a landlord is expected to hold on to unclaimed property before it can be disposed of.
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