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?

UPDATED: Jul 3, 2014

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 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.

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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