What is the law on tenant abandoned property in Virginia?

tenant abandoned property

When tenants decide to move out of a rental property, they ideally give ample notice before leaving. However, it’s not always that simple for rental property owners. Whether a tenant moves out voluntarily or after an eviction, landlords often find themselves cleaning up and repairing damage and dealing with the tenant’s personal belongings left behind.

This blog post will guide you through the laws on tenant abandoned property in Virginia and what to do if you’re dealing with one.

What Does Tenant Abandonment Mean?

Tenant abandonment is when a tenant leaves a rental property without giving notice to the landlord. Generally, abandoning the property occurs when a tenant leaves the premises for an extended time without any communication or intention of return.

It usually involves a tenant abandoning their lease obligations, like paying rent and maintaining the property.

Why Has the Tenant Left?

In many states, landlords’ options for handling tenant abandoned property depend on the circumstances of the tenant’s departure.

  • The tenant decides to move at the end of a lease or after giving a termination notice. In this situation, many states give landlords maximum flexibility to dispose of leftover belongings.
  • The tenant decides to move after receiving a termination notice from the landlord. In this situation, many states give landlords maximum flexibility to dispose of leftover belongings.
  • The tenant is physically evicted, and personal property is left in the rental or removed to the curb. Some states require landlords to take more pains with the property of a tenant who has been evicted. On the other hand, some require less effort.
  • The tenant disappears. In a few states, property belonging to tenants who leave without notice must be treated differently from virginia abandoned property law after a tenant who’s given notice or been evicted leaves.

How To Confirm The Abandonment

If you’re uncertain that the property is truly abandoned, you’ll want to take some solid steps to prove the assumption to the best of your ability before repossessing the apartment.

Before moving on to what to do if a tenant abandoned property here are some ways to establish the abandonment:

Interview the neighbors

Spend some time talking with the former tenant’s neighbors. Be sure to document when and who you interviewed and what their responses included.

Find out when the tenant was last seen and if anyone saw people moving belongings into a car or truck. Ask if anyone overheard conversations about moving out.

Call the utility companies

Tenants who have abandoned their properties sometimes call to disconnect their utilities to avoid paying additional bills.

Ask whether utilities were disconnected due to payment issues or if the tenant canceled service. Document whom you spoke with, when calls were made, and what responses were received.

Contact the post office

Permanently moving tenants often request a change of address or provide forwarding information. Besides being one clue as to whether or not your tenant is permanently gone, it may give you at least another chance at contacting the tenant.

Access the property

Most landlords have permission through lease agreements to enter the property under certain circumstances. If you can do so legally, look inside the apartment and see if most of the person’s possessions are gone or if the tenant plans to return.

How To Handle An Abandoned Property in Virginia

Once you have determined your tenant has abandoned the rental property, there are a few essential steps you should take to recover an abandoned property in Virginia.

  • Your region might have specific provisions, especially regarding time limits, so it’s always important to know the legal requirements for handling the abandoned virginia property.
  • You must make a list of all of the tenant’s belongings left behind. Take pictures of every item as you go – the more documentation, the better.
  • Find a secure area, such as a storage unit, to hold the tenant’s abandoned in virginia property until the tenant can pick up their property or until the required time limit has passed.

Send a letter to the tenant

Explain to the tenant how long they must claim the property and who can claim it in a certified letter of abandonment of property. Make sure you specify:

  • The deadline to collect their things, which can range from a week to 45 days
  • The inventory list
  • The charge for storing their property
  • Where the property is being stored

Virginia State Law For The Abandoned Property

According to Virginia’s § 55.1-1254. Disposal of property abandoned by tenants’ law here are some legal considerations the landlords must consider after reclaiming the property.

  • If personal property is left in the rental unit, premises, or storage area after the rental agreement ends and possession is delivered, the landlord can consider it abandoned. The landlord can dispose of the abandoned property as they see fit, but they must provide proper notice to the tenant.
  • The termination notice must include a statement that any personal property left behind will be disposed of within 24 hours. The landlord can give written notice to the tenant, stating that any personal property left behind will be disposed of within 24 hours after a seven-day notice period expires.
  • Alternatively, the landlord can give a separate written notice to the tenant, stating that any personal property left behind will be disposed of within 24 hours after 10 days from the date of the notice.
  • The tenant has the right to remove their personal property during the 24 hours after termination or at other reasonable times until the landlord disposes of the remaining property. During these 24 hours, the landlord is not liable for any loss or damage to the personal property.
  • If the landlord refuses reasonable access to the tenant to retrieve their property, the tenant has the right to seek injunctive or other legal relief.
  • If the landlord sells any abandoned property, they must deposit the funds into the tenant’s account and use them to pay any outstanding amounts owed by the tenant, including costs incurred for selling, storing, or safekeeping the property.
  • If any funds remain after applying them to the tenant’s outstanding debts, they are treated as a security deposit according to the applicable provisions.

These rules do not apply if the landlord has obtained a court order for possession and completed the eviction process according to the law.

How To Prevent Tenant Abandonment

To help limit tenant abandoned property, landlords can take steps in several areas to protect their rental investments.

Thorough Tenant Screenings: Conduct background checks, including credit history, employment verification, and rental references. Look for tenants with a stable rental history and a good track record of fulfilling their obligations.

Lease agreements: The landlord can include a specific clause in the lease that outlines the procedures and consequences in the event of abandonment. This makes sure that both parties are aware of their responsibilities and rights.

Regular Property Inspections: Conduct routine inspections to identify any signs of neglect, damage, or potential abandonment. Document the condition of the property through written reports and photographs.

Proper Maintenance and Repairs: Respond promptly to repair requests and ensure that the property is well-maintained. Regularly inspect and maintain common areas, utilities, and essential systems.

Lease Renewal Incentives: Offer lease renewal incentives such as rent discounts, upgraded amenities, or extended lease terms. Show appreciation to long-term tenants through small gestures like gift cards or personalized notes.


Preventing tenant abandoned property is crucial for landlords to maintain a stable and profitable rental property. By implementing the strategies outlined in this blog, landlords can minimize the risk of tenants abandoning their property, leading to financial losses and potential legal complications.

By establishing a positive and professional relationship with tenants, maintaining open lines of communication, and addressing concerns promptly, landlords can create a conducive environment for tenants to fulfill their obligations and stay committed to their lease agreements.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a reputable local house-buying professional, also a real estate agent (Virginia). Count on his nearly fifteen (15) years of expertise in being part of resolving any issues that may threaten transactions, being accessible, and answering questions, as well as remaining transparent throughout closing transactions. One of Paul's Favorite Quotes: "To Give Anything Less Than Your Best Is To Sacrifice the Gift."

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