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When Tenants Play Nasty Games

Tenants don’t always play fair, as shown in this story about a tenant who walked away from their possessions and suite…and then accused us of disposing of “priceless heirlooms”.


I notice that people love stories. I had a lot of feedback about my naked truth story last week and so today I thought I would share another story. And I’m going to call it – “When tenants play nasty games”- Abandoned Suites.

We had an incident recently, in which a residential tenant gave legal notice that they were going to vacate at the end of the month. Approximately one week before the end of the month, the caretaker contacted me and said the tenant had not made any attempt to box anything up. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done at that point – other than to monitor the situation.

The day before the tenant was supposed to move out, the caretaker called again and asked what he was to do because he had already re-rented the unit to an incoming tenant and the entire suite was left as if they had simply vanished, leaving everything behind.

The vacating tenant did not respond to emails or telephone calls, so I gave instructions to the manager to take an inventory of the contents by taking photographs of everything in the suite. I also gave instructions to bring a witness to record the contents and then move it into storage. We were lucky enough that the building actually had enough storage room to contain the contents of the suite.

The suite was cleared out and cleaned and the new tenant moved in. We didn’t hear anything from the tenant who had given notice to vacate.

Approximately six months later – late on a Friday of a long weekend in the summer (everything always seemed to happen on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend) our office received a telephone call from an irate individual claiming that we had thrown out all their possession onto the street and that passersby were taking items that belonged to them. Of course, their possessions had suddenly become priceless heirlooms worth thousands of dollars, including irreplaceable pieces of art worthy of the Tate Museum or the Louvre. This was of course not true and we had evidence to support that, but it does highlight how some tenants will attempt to catch landlords unawares.

So where does this leave a landlord?

If a tenant skips town, the residential tenancy act stipulates a landlord must store the tenant’s possessions for three months unless it is obvious garbage.

We recommend not throwing ANYTHING away unless it is decomposing and presents a health issue. We further recommend taking a written inventory of every single item in the unit and also taking photographs of the premises to substantiate the contents. I am amazed at how many times tenants come back after the three month time limit in order to make a claim on their possessions. If they were so valuable – why didn’t they take them in the first place?

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