Landlord’s Duty to Retain Personal Property of Prior Tenant

Act 129 of 2012 amended the Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Act to address the disposition of abandoned tenant property (after the tenant either vacated or was evicted) for both residential and commercial leaseholds. Before the passage of Act 129, the tenant did not lose title by failing to remove the personal property. Both the landlord and tenant now have duties to deal with said property. The tenants will now have an affirmative duty to obtain their property left at the abandoned leasehold.  In short, 68 P.S. 250.505(a) states that upon vacating or being evicted from the leased premises, the tenant shall have 10 days to contact the landlord regarding the tenant’s intent to remove the remaining personal property. If the tenant complies with this 10-day notice, the personal property shall be retained by the landlord at a site of the landlord for a period of 30 days. If the tenant fails to advise the landlord within 10 days, the property can be disposed of at the discretion of the landlord.

John A. Torrente, EsquireJohn A. Torrente, EsquireFor situations where the tenant does not notify the landlord and possession was not granted to the landlord by a judgment which provided notice of the tenant’s rights and responsibilities under Act 129, the landlord is required to provide written notice to the tenant that the personal property will remain on the property and must be retrieved by the tenant within 30 days. The tenant has 10 days (from the postmark date) to notify the landlord that he or she will be retrieving the personal property. If no communication is made to the landlord within 10 days, the property can be disposed of at the discretion of the landlord. The notice provided by the landlord must include a telephone number and address where the landlord can be contacted and shall identify the location of the personal property that can be retrieved. The written notice must be served in one of three (3) ways: (1) regular mail to the tenant’s forwarding address (if provided), (2) mailed to the formerly leased premises (if no forwarding address has been provided), or (3) by personal delivery to the tenant. If the tenant fails to retrieve the personal property during the 30 day retention period or if the tenant fails to respond within the 10 day period following receipt of the notice, the landlord is released of any responsibility to retain the personal property. The landlord notice must advise the tenant that he or she will be required to pay any and all costs related to the removal and storage of the personal property retrieved by the tenant after 10 days.  

Thereafter, if the landlord elects to sell the abandoned personal property, any proceeds must be forwarded to the tenant by certified mail. However, the landlord is permitted to offset the costs of storage and removal if there is no forwarding address for the former tenant. If no forwarding address was provided, the landlord must hold the sale proceeds for 30 days; and if it remains unclaimed, then the landlord may keep the money.

To comply with the Landlord Tenant Act’s new provisions with regard to personal property, landlords should amend their lease to include provisions consistent with Act 129; namely, notices should be issued immediately when a tenant vacates the premises, costs involved in storage, and the property should be photographed and inventoried.  

Begley, Carlin & Mandio, LLP attorneys can provide the necessary advice on the aforementioned changes in the Landlord Tenant Act so that your commercial and residential leases comply with the notice of rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant under the Act.

John A. Torrente, Esquire is an attorney with Begley, Carlin & Mandio, LLP, Langhorne, PA and is the Solicitor for the Bucks County Tax Claim Bureau. Mr. Torrente is also licensed to practice in New Jersey. His areas of concentration include real estate, commercial and municipal litigation, municipal and zoning law, and business law. 

Begley, Carlin & Mandio, LLP has been providing high quality legal services to individuals, businesses, and governmental entities throughout Bucks County since 1933.  It is probably one of the oldest and largest firms in Bucks County. The hallmark of the firm’s services is its attention to the needs of its clients.  When representation requires litigation, they are aggressive trial lawyers who are not afraid to fight to protect their clients’ rights.  However, they also believe in reasonableness and cooperation and adjust their representation to suit the needs of any particular client.  Begley, Carlin & Mandio, LLP strives to provide the best and most effective representation for its clients.

This article provides information of general interest and is not intended, and should not be used, as a substitute for consultation with legal counsel.  Any questions regarding the specific issues raised in this article should be directed to the authors or to their contacts at Begley, Carlin & Mandio, LLP.

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