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Article of the Month for September 2007 Printer friendly version

Handling Abandoned Personal Property

by Ward Hanigan

It’s common for foreclosed ex-owners to leave personal property behind when they move. Most of it is junk, but the law imposes a duty on the new owner to care for the any personal property that’s been left behind, and give special notice to the last known occupant, concerning its disposition. [CA Civil Code Section 1980-1991]

Basically, if in your opinion, the value of the abandoned property is worth less than $300 you can simply give notice (Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property). After the required time period has passed you can dispose of the stuff as you see fit. But if you think it’s worth more than $300 then you have to dispose of it at a publicly advertised, “arms length” sale.

Presently, California’s Civil Code allows notices to be delivered by mail, but an extra dollop of time is mandated to accommodate mail delivery. Also, certain proof requirements must be met. [CA Civil Code Section 1013]

Before we ever touch, move or disturb anything at a vacant property that we’ve bought at a foreclosure auction, we take the precaution to video/photograph and inventory whatever articles there are in place--in every room, nook and cranny in the house, the garage and any other outlying buildings.

We keep a digital archive of all the photos as a regular business record. It’s proven to be an essential safeguard that buttresses any legal argument we might have over the detritus of any former occupants or in the pursuit of insurance claims regarding the condition of the premises at the time we bought it.

Once our photographic record is made we immediately move any leftover “stuff” off the property and into secured storage. Then we can begin our rehabbing activity without concern of further entanglement with the ex-occupant.

As far as abandoned vehicles go, we found it most expedient to just push or drag them to the street. Before too long the vehicle will first be ticketed, and then about 10 days later, hauled away by the city or county’s code enforcement gendarmery. This maneuver has worked well with any licensed, wheel-propelled contrivance, even trailers of all sorts.

Information provided by this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult your investment advisor and/or attorney before entering into any transaction. Read our privacy policy.

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