If my roommate is going to prison for a long time., do I have to keep his possessions and property in my home or can I dispose of them?

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If my roommate is going to prison for a long time., do I have to keep his possessions and property in my home or can I dispose of them?

Asked on July 3, 2014 under Estate Planning, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If you are not his landlord (i.e. if both of you rent from somone else), you have *no* right to dispose of his property at *any* time--his landlord may have that right under certain circumstances, if his tenancy terminates (i.e. he is evicted), but a co-tenant does not.

If you are his landlord--either you own the home and he rents from you, or you are the main tenant and your roommate subleases from you--then if he is evicted, you may dispose of his belongings pursuant to the requirements of the Abandoned Property Act, which requires, among other things, that after the eviction, you send him a registered letter (it's a good idea to also send it regular mail as well) reminding him that he's been evicted and informing him that he has 30 days from the date  he received the letter (33 days from when it was mailed) to pick up his belongings; only after that time passes can you dispose of them.

Being jailed does not itself mean he can be evicted; in New Jersey, he can only be evicted for certain specifically defined "good cause" which most often means (especially in cases like this) nonpayment of rent. However, if he keeps paying his rent (or someone else, like family, pays for him) he may not be evicted.

Even if you are the landlord and he fails to pay rent, remember that in New Jersey, you have to bring an eviction action in court to get him out.


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