Is it legal for a landlord to keep your personal property as collateral for back rent after an eviction?

UPDATED: Jun 20, 2015

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Is it legal for a landlord to keep your personal property as collateral for back rent after an eviction?

Even if you do owe the rent?

Asked on June 20, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

In most states, a landlord cannot seize a tenant's personal property for back rent. Instead, to collect, the landlord must take the tenant to court and obtain a judgement. If the tenant happened to leave property in the rental unit, the landlord must follow legal procedures before they can sell, claim or otherwise dispose of it.

In a minority of states, a landlord is permitted to seize a tenant's property for unpaid rent with something called a "landlord's lien", however it requires obtaining a court order.

Finlly, if a landlord has wrongfully taken a tenant's personal possessions, they can be sued in civil court for the return of the items or for their value, plus damages. Additionally, the tenant can file a criminal compliant for "conversion" (theft) of thier property.


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 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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