Abandonment is the legal term for when a tenant leaves their rental unit with no intention to return. Abandonment can occur by a tenant moving out early or by their death. There are specific rules about how and when to enter and remove items in each of these situations.

Abandonment exists when a tenant has fallen behind in rent and has clearly indicated by words or actions they have no intention of returning to the unit. When evidence exists that the rental unit has been abandoned, you may enter the unit and remove any abandoned property. It must be stored in a reasonably secure place. A notice must be mailed to the tenant saying where the property is being stored and when it will be sold.

If you do not have a forwarding address for the tenant, the notice should be mailed to the rental address, so it can be forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service. If the total value of property is less than $250, you must mail a notice of the sale to the tenant and then wait seven(7) days. Family pictures, keepsakes and personal papers cannot be sold until forty-five (45) days after the notice of abandonment has been sent to the tenant. The money raised by the sale of the property must be used to cover any money that the tenant had owed to you. If there is any money left, you must keep it for the tenant for one (1) year at which point, if it is unclaimed, you may keep it. See here for the state law. when your tenant dies.

  • When you learn of the death of a tenant who is the sole occupant of a dwelling unit, you must promptly mail or personally deliver a written notice to any known personal representative, designated person, emergency contact person, or known successor to the tenant.
  • The notice must include the name of the deceased tenant and address of the rental unit, the approximate date of the tenant's death, the amount of the monthly rent and the date to which it is paid. The notice must also include a statement that the tenancy will terminate 15 days from the date the notice is mailed or personally delivered, or the date through which the rent has been paid, whichever is later.
  • The tenant's representative during this 15 day period may makes arrangements with the you to pay rent in advance for no more than 60 days from the date of the tenant's death in order to arrange for the removal of the deceased tenant's property.
  • If a tenant representative does not contact you or remove the deceased person's property in a timely manner, you may sell or dispose of the stored property, except for personal papers and personal photographs. If the fair market value of the property is more than $1,000, the landlord must sell the property in a commercially reasonable manner.
  • All unsold property must be disposed of in a reasonable manner. If the value of the stored property is less than $1,000, the landlord must dispose of the property in a reasonable manner.

The personal papers and photographs that are not claimed by a tenant representative must be retained for 90 days after the sale or disposal of the deceased tenant's property and must either be destroyed or held for benefit of any successor of the deceased tenant. See the state law.

Renting in Seattle

Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98124
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
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The Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) includes permitting, construction inspections, code compliance and tenant protections, and rental housing registration and inspections.