If my subtenant left a personal item behind, legally what can I do with it?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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If my subtenant left a personal item behind, legally what can I do with it?

I sublet an apartment to someone through a verbal agreement. Due to the subtenant not paying rent, committing theft and using marijuana, I asked them to leave and pay his rent, giving him 2 weeks verbal notice. However, he left without notice but left a suitcase of belongings in the room. When returning to pick up suitcase, I confronted him about the rent and asked to be paid. He refused to pay, so I proceeded to contact the police, at which point the subtenant ran away. The police informed me that I could not take legal action due to not having a lease with the subtenant. It has been a week and he has not returned for his belongings. Am I required to keep his belongings or can I drop it off at the police station?

Asked on November 3, 2015 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

The police are wrong: there *was* a lease--an oral (or unwritten) lease containing the terms under which you sublet the space (e.g. how much he would pay)--this is what you called a verbal lease, but the correct term is oral.  Anytime you get rent for an apartment, there is, by definition, at least a simple oral lease containing the terms that in exchange for paying $XXX, the tenant or subtenant gets possession of the space.
In New Jersey, this situation is governed by the Abandoned Property Act. You need to send the tenant a letter stating that he left property behind; that he has 33 days from when you sent the letter to retrieve it; and that is he does not retrieve it, you will then dispose of it as permitted by law. (Basically, if anything has value, sell it and appy to any unpaid rent; if it's not valuable, throw it out.) Mail the letter by regular mail and certified mail, return receipt requested. Send it to his current address, if you know it, or to his last known address (including the sublet apartment) with instructions on the envelop to the post office to "please forward" if possible. After the time period is up, you can dispose of the item(s); until then, you have to keep them safe.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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