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tenant parking sign with overgrown plants -Your Tenant Did A Midnight Move - here’s what to do

Your Tenant Did A Midnight Move – here’s what to do

Your tenant did a midnight move. You know this because you were just sitting down to your first cup of coffee this morning when the neighbor called and told you she saw the tenants loading up trucks the night before. She tells you the yard’s a mess, and when she peeked in the living room window, it was littered with beaten-up old furniture and garbage. What can you do?

Abandonment of Property

Abandonment of property (The Residential Tenancies Act  (RTA) Section 31) or a “midnight move” is when the tenant abandons your premises without ending the tenancy or giving notice, and you believe they have no intention of returning. If this happens, before you begin the process of cleaning it up and re-renting, you must first determine if the premises are abandoned before re-renting. The signs are;

  • Furniture is removed
  • Neighbors saw tenants move out
  • Newspapers/mail are collecting
  • Utilities are disconnected or unpaid

If you believe the property is abandoned, you can;

  • Provide a 24-hour notice of entry or no notice of entry
  • If it is a fixed-term tenancy; can claim rent up to date of end of tenancy
  • If it is a periodic  tenancy – you can claim unpaid, and future rent up to one month’s notice period
  • If you re-rent –the former tenant is no longer responsible for payment

One day, my husband and I came home one day to find our downstairs tenant with a person we had never met,  unloading a truck with a bed, household items, and suitcases. We asked him what was going on. The conversation went like this;

Me: Hi Mel, what’s going on here?

Tenant:  My work buddy Fred here lived in an apartment with two other guys. Yesterday, they moved out, and Fred couldn’t pay the rent on his own, so I told Fred he could move in with me and my daughter until he finds another place. That’s OK, isn’t it?

Me:  So, let me get this straight, Fred doesn’t want to pay his rent, so he ran out on his lease, and now he wants to live at our house for free?!”

“ No, it’s not ok.”

Fred and Mel were surprised I sided with Fred’s landlord.

The mysterious Fred left quietly, and we never did discover his last name… and our tenant gave proper notice before he moved out at the end of his lease,  and things ended harmoniously.

Unfortunately, midnight moves frequently come with abandoned goods. As tempting as it is to haul everything off to the dump, the RTA has rules for storing and selling things the tenants left behind.

Abandoned Goods

Goods have their own set of rules and regulations based on their perceived value. If your tenant/s have left abandoned goods behind, (RTA Section 31 ), first, determine their value.

If they’re less than $2000 and if:

  • Storing would be unsafe/unsanitary
    • Costs of moving, storing, selling exceeds process of sales

Throw them out!

If they’re more than $2000 and if:

  • Storing would be unsafe/unsanitary
    • Costs of moving, storing, selling exceeds proceeds of sales

Throw them out!

If they’re more than $2000 and not above?

  • Store for 30 days
    • After 30 days –sell to recover rent by approval of court/private sale

Not sold? Throw them out!

Excess money after the sale?

If you have remaining funds left after the sale of the goods, transfer them to the Minister of Service Alberta.

Of course, the responsibility doesn’t end there, and you need to keep a record of abandoned goods for 3 years which includes:

  • Description of goods
  • Where and how long they were stored
  • If tenant reclaimed goods – details of goods reclaimed, and fees landlord claimed for costs/removal storage
  • Details of sale of goods: how much, landlord claimed costs, amounts owed by tenant, how much sent to Minister of Service Alberta
  • Details of any other goods disposed of

Midnight moves and abandoned goods make for some good story swapping with fellow landlords. Although, most landlords prefer nice boring tenants to deal with all the drama, expense, and headaches that come from abandoned property and goods.

A thorough screening process combined with knowledge of the RTA will go a long way in separating the good from the bad tenants while giving you the legal framework in dealing with midnight moves and abandoned property.

How have your experiences been with midnight moves? I’d be interested in hearing about it [email protected]

Do you want to know how to screen tenants so that you’re only getting the good tenants?  Sign up for my 45-minute masterclass  Find the Best Tenants.

To take advantage of these landlord hacks and get access to even more helpful tips, tools, and educational resources for DIY landlords, sign up for a membership for Landlord Fundamentals 101. To save even more time and money, combine Landlord Fundamentals 101 with one-on-one coaching to qualify for the Canada Alberta Job Grant.

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