Landlord Tips & Tricks
February 7, 2024

Can a Landlord Move your Personal Belongings Without Permission?

Steadily's blog cover page for information around landlord insurance.

The landlord-tenant relationship is governed by law. You'll sign a lease to rent a house, agreeing to various conditions. Some terms protect the landlord, and others safeguard the tenants' rights. Therefore, each party must fulfill its role in the tenancy contract and abide by existing rules. 

Even with the laws in place, conflicts still arise. For instance, one of the biggest challenges for landlords is knowing when to move a renter's belongings without permission.

Luckily, with guidelines like this, proprietors can avoid legal action for moving a client's things without permission. This article discusses when a landlord is allowed and not allowed to move tenant property.

Right to Quiet Enjoyment

You agreed to both expressed and implied terms when you signed a lease. The expressed terms may include the date of rent payment, deposit amount, and responsibility of the renter and landlord.

Implied terms are not clearly stated in the lease but are covered by tenancy laws. One good example of this is the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.

So how does it relate to a tenant's things being moved?

The covenant states that a tenant is entitled to peace and quiet in the premises apart from a safe habitat. While the term may be used relatively, it usually means the following:

  • The use of the rented premise becomes exclusive to the renter. This happens immediately after the rental agreement is signed.
  • The landlord ensures the premises are in good condition and per building codes and guidelines.
  • The tenant shall be able to use the premise quietly, undisturbed and unhindered.

From the scenarios above, the covenant of quiet enjoyment doesn't allow landlords to enter the premises without permission. As such, they cannot move the tenants' personal belongings.

However, the lease can provide an entry provision that permits the landlord to enter and move the tenants' belongings. These have to be in line with state laws or won’t be legally binding. 

Related Reading: 10 Things a Landlord Can't Do

When can a Landlord Move Tenants' Personal Belonging Without Permission?

While the law doesn't permit property owners to move a tenant's belongings, there are situations where they are allowed without any authorization. Such situations include:

1. In case of Emergencies

Every state allows proprietors or representatives to access a premise and move things during an emergency without notice. This happens when action needs to be taken to solve something, and the tenant is out of reach.

A good example is when pipe bursts and water floods the premise and adjoining ones. The landlord can have a maintenance crew move the tenant's belongings and repair the damage.

The landlord must prove the urgency of the matter or else they will have breached the law. If the issue is not urgent, they need to give notice and offer a good reason.

Situations where the landlord can give notice for entry and moving property include:

  • To showcase the premise to prospective buyers and renters
  • For inspection according to building regulations
  • To make repairs

2. Abandonment

A premise is considered abandoned when a landlord has enough reason to think you moved without notice. The landlord will seek to terminate the contract through the Landlord and Tenant Board or give notice of getting rid of your property.

Different states provide a timeline under which the landlord can't move the belongings. After that time elapses, they can move the items to storage, sell them, or throw them away.

If the renter makes contact within the time frame, they will be given a reasonable time to pick up the items. Then, if rent is due, the owner can sell some items to offset the balance.

Note that this is only legal when the landlord uses the above procedures. They can not sell tenant property for rent due; they must have evidence of abandonment.

3. When the Tenant Moves

Tenants need to take all their belongings when they willingly move out. This could be after receiving or giving the notice to end the existing tenancy or agreeing to terminate the contract.

The tenant must take their things off the promise before the stipulated day on the contract. The only other way is for them to get permission from the property owner to store the things on the premises. Failure to do this, the proprietor has the right to sell, keep or throw whatever is left behind.

4. After an Eviction

In case of breach of contract, a landlord could head to court to get an eviction notice. If the eviction is granted, the tenant must pick up their belongings within a given time frame (usually 72 hours). The landlord must keep the items safe, and can sell, keep or throw them away after the period elapses.

What if the Landlord and Tenant Didn't Sign a Lease?

The rights of tenants and landlords also exist in situations where no lease is signed. For example, if the tenant paid a security deposit and keeps paying rent, it implies that an oral agreement happened.

In this case, the laws of the state take precedent.

5. Health and Safety Violations

Landlords may be allowed to intervene and move a tenant's belongings if they pose a health or safety risk. For example, if a tenant's belongings are blocking fire exits or creating a hazard that could potentially harm other tenants or the property itself, the landlord may act to remove the threat. Before taking any action, landlords usually need to provide notice and allow the tenant an opportunity to rectify the situation. If the issue is not addressed in a timely manner, the landlord can step in to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents.

6. Legal Orders or Police Requests

In certain circumstances, landlords may receive legal orders or requests from law enforcement to access a tenant's premises and move belongings. This could be in the case of a search warrant being executed or if there's a need to preserve evidence of a crime. In such instances, the landlord's compliance with the law or law enforcement requests takes precedence over the tenant's privacy rights.

What if the Landlord and Tenant Didn't Sign a Lease?

The rights of tenants and landlords also exist in situations where no lease is signed. For example, if the tenant paid a security deposit and keeps paying rent, it implies that an oral agreement happened.

In this case, the laws of the state take precedent.

Related Reading: Does Landlord Insurance Cover Legal Costs?

Consequences of Unlawfully Moving Tenant Belongings

Landlords must follow the law governing tenancy and the contracts they enter. If they unlawfully move a tenant's belongings, they are at risk of being taken to court.

Here are the possible outcomes if they lose the case.

  • They will be asked to honor the existing tenancy contract
  • They will b ordered to return the lost items and cater for transportation
  • They will be asked to pay for the items and the inconvenience caused
  • It could be classified as theft

Protect Yourself from Lawsuits

If you are a landlord, you need to know the rules you must follow. Importantly, you must know when you are allowed to move a tenant's property, with or without permission. This way, you protect yourself from the various legal challenges of a mistake.

Better still, you can protect yourself through Steadily landlord insurance. Our experts will offer services and guide you through quote requests to claim resolution. As a result, in case disputes arise as a result of moving a tenant’s belongings, you’ll be protected from whatever outcome. 

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