Abandoned Personal Property Laws in Ohio

Three boxes in the corner of an empty room.
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Tenants sometimes move out of their rental property without taking all of their personal possessions with them. In some cases, the landlord can treat the property as abandoned and sell it off to pay the tenancy debts. Ohio law requires the landlord to first contact the tenant and ask him to collect his things. Simply selling the tenant's possessions, or acting in bad faith, could result in the landlord being liable for the cost of the tenant's property. Foreclosed property has court protection from such liability.

Duty to Safeguard Property

A landlord in Ohio has the duty to safeguard a tenant's abandoned property for at least 30 days. The landlord may store a tenant's personal property from an abandoned rental unit in a different location, including a storage locker or unit, and must inform the tenant in writing of where she may claim the property. If the tenant doesn't respond, the landlord may sell or discard the tenant's personal property after the 30-day limit expires. A landlord may auction off any personal property valued over $300. Many municipalities in Ohio have their own ordinances.

Abandonment Lease Clauses

Ohio lease may contain an abandonment clause if the parties agree. This clause defines the activities that constitute abandonment, including a list of conditions that must occur for the landlord to consider the rental property abandoned. A properly drafted clause also establishes how and where a landlord will store a tenant's property after the lease ends. Even if the clause isn't enforceable in court, there's no direct penalty to the landlord for including it in the lease agreement.

Conflicts in Ohio Code

Landlords run into trouble if the abandonment clause in the lease conflicts with state law. For example, the landlord may dispose of the tenant's personal property after just 10 days because the lease says he can, whereas state law requires him to safeguard the tenant's property for at least 30 days. In this scenario, state law prevails. Furthermore, the court may invalidate any lease clauses which it feels are unconscionable and diminish a tenant's rights under the law. This can quickly turn the tables on landlords and enable tenants to sue them to recover damages from destroyed personal property.

Foreclosure and Abandoned Property

In some cases, a family may vacate a foreclosed property and fail to remove all personal belongings. The sheriff, bailiff, constable or police officer supervising the eviction ensures the removal of personal property from the foreclosed property. Ohio law protects the law enforcement official from any lawsuit or liability sustained in removing personal property from the premises while enforcing a writ of execution from the court.

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