How to Manage Trash Left Behind by Renters

Its Monday, again… I open the door to my office, throw my coat on the back of my chair and stick a coffee cup under the Keurig.  Then, I walk over to the drop box to collect the keys of renters who have moved out over the weekend. With just two apartments I think, ‘I can get these units inspected and have the cleaning crew in by Tuesday’.  Me and my freshly brewed java take the elevator up to the third floor and unlock 3B.  I push the door open and a big bag of garbage is waiting right there in the middle of the room to greet me.  Perfect.  Well, garbage would have been ok but once I get inside I spot a few other items left by Mr. and Mrs. Doe.  These scenarios happen all the time. From garbage to old furniture, these are just a few common items left behind by tenants, and what you can do with them.


Many leases state the renter will leave the apartment clean, but that rarely happens.  There is always at least one bags worth of trash (if not multiple) strewn throughout several different rooms.  It might be frustrating and sometimes gross depending on what kind of trash it is, but this is by far the easiest item to deal with.  No red tape, no documentation, just a little elbow grease to get it out to the dumpster and the trash is a distant memory. 

Mattresses and/or Old Furniture

For whatever reason, tenants always seem to have one or a few of these things they leave behind. Perhaps they are planning to purchase newer ones, or they assume the landlord or superintendent can use it or donate it. Maybe its broken, and they just don’t want to carry it out to the dumpster. Either way it’s your problem now. If it is broken and unusable, its trash so you can discard it. If it’s usable, take a picture and document it on your post-inspection check list. 

Typically, one call or an email to the previous tenant asking if they are coming back for it or if they don’t want it will clear this up.  If they are coming back for it, you must make it absolutely clear that you are not a storage facility, and if they do not return within a reasonable amount time (dictated by you), you will deduct X amount of dollars per day for storage from the security deposit. 


One earring, a broken bracelet, a necklace tucked inside the back of the medicine cabinet…  in my experience, jewelry is never left behind on purpose. Take a picture and document it.  Keep it in the office safe, send a certified letter and make a phone call.  Typically, a 30-day waiting period is sufficient. 

No matter what a tenant leaves behind it is always important to take pictures and keep a list. Something that appears to be trash to you may not be garbage to them. Notify them via phone and certified mail if you have a forwarding address. Email can be used too. Include guidelines (they vary by state so check with your municipality) and fees for storage. Ultimately the goal is to make everything clear from the beginning and let them know what will happen to the items if they are not collected.

What have you found in your units?

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Melissa Pietras

Melissa has been in the administrative/management field for over 20 years. She has managed various types of properties from residential to commercial and currently works in commercial finance. In her free time she enjoys cooking for her family and spending time in her garden.

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