April 10, 2014
Question: What is the law regarding personal property remaining in an apartment after an eviction is carried out by a marshal? I understand that the landlord must keep the property in the apartment for 30 days or put the items in storage in the tenants name. What are the landlord's options? Thanks.
Two Options on Eviction Day
Landlord has two options on eviction day. Landlord can ask the New York City Marshal to deliver either legal possession or full possession (otherwise known as a “move out eviction”). A full eviction is the removal of the tenant and the tenant’s belongs both of which the Marshal oversees. Legal possession removes the occupant from the space but the personal property of the former tenant remains under the care and control of the landlord. Most “evictions” are actually the Marshal returning legal possession to the landlord even though the terms are commonly used interchangeably.
If only legal possession is being given back to the landlord, the Marshal will take an inventory of everything inside the premises. The Marshal is required to prepare a written inventory of the items in the premises, “The inventory must be complete and accurate, giving a description of all appliances, household furniture, goods and properties present. Both the quantity and condition of the property must be noted.” New York City Marshals Handbook, Chapter IV, § 6. After the Marshal takes an inventory the landlord will have to sign a statement releasing the Marshal from all liability for any damage to the tenant’s property. The landlord should make sure he gets a copy of the inventory. The landlord may not merely dispose of the tenant’s property left inside the premises. Landlord must maintain the personal property, either in the premises or somewhere else. It is important that the Tenant be allowed to retrieve their belongings. If a tenant does come back to get their things, make sure they are supervised whenever entering the premises. Do not give the tenant a copy of the new keys. If landlord removes the tenant’s belongings to a different location for storage, landlord can be exposed to liability for any damage to the tenant’s belongings. I am not sure where you got, “that the landlord must keep the property in the apartment for 30 days”. There is no statute that says that the landlord must hold on to Tenant’s property for 30 days. Many leases, however, do have something to say about the issue, and that is what controls in these situations. The Standard Form of Apartment Lease promulgated by the Real Estate Board of New York says at 9(B):
When this Lease ends, You must remove all of your movable property…If your property remains in the Apartment after the Lease ends, Owner may … consider that You have given up the Apartment and any property remaining in the Apartment. In this event, Owner may either discard the property or store it at your expense. You agree to pay Owner for all costs and expenses incurred in removing such property. The provisions of this article will continue to be in effect after the end of this Lease.
Move Out Eviction
Special moving/storage companies may be engaged to move the tenant’s belongings to a warehouse at the time of eviction, thus immediately delivering full possession to the landlord. The landlord is responsible for the moving charges and the tenant is responsible for the storage charges. Usually once the property is removed the storage company will not release the tenant’s belongings until the tenant pays for the storage.
Whether the Marshal is delivering legal possession or full possession, it is sometimes useful for the landlord to photograph the premises immediately after the eviction.
The following is from the Marshal’s Handbook promulgated by the New York City Department of Investigations:
In the event the landlord demands that the premises be turned over in “broom clean” condition, the marshal must conduct an eviction. The marshal must hire a bonded moving company which is licensed by the New York State Department of Transportation. The marshal must also direct the moving company to deliver the items removed from the premises to a warehouse licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs … the cost of removal of the tenant's property and its delivery to a bonded warehouse must be borne by the landlord. All marshals are required to prepare a written inventory of all items contained in the premises of any tenant to be evicted. The inventory shall be prepared regardless of whether the marshal does an eviction or a legal possession. The inventory must be complete and accurate, giving a description of all appliances, household furniture, goods, and properties present. Both the quantity and condition of the property must be noted.