Sometimes a landlord is expecting that he’ll only be renting his property out for a year or two and doesn’t want to move all of his personal property out, or perhaps he just doesn’t have storage space elsewhere, and the basement on his rental property is a good place to keep it. Is this a good idea? NO!
This creates a whole lot of problems:
1. You have to remember to specifically designate this area, whether it’s a room, the basement, the attic, etc. as an area that is not included in the lease, otherwise the tenant is guaranteed access to it, even if you lock it. When a tenants signs a lease to that property, he’s getting the right to possession of the entire property during the term of that agreement unless it specifically says otherwise.
2. You have to keep a very specific inventory just in case anything turns up missing. Let’s be honest, putting a padlock on a door isn’t very secure. If the tenant wants to get into that attic, he’s going to do so. And then if your $1,000 in electronics is missing when the tenant moves out, unless you have a very detailed inventory list that the tenant signed off on at move-in, then it will be impossible to hold the tenant accountable.
3. Even if you do get a detailed inventory list and a lease that designates a private area, you’re still left with trying to enforce it if the tenant steals something. Police will tell you that recovering stolen property is incredibly difficult. The tenant will claim that he didn’t take anything, and the district attorney is unlikely to want to take up a case over your $1,000 in lost property. You’ll probably be left to go to civil court. If you use an attorney (which is always recommended), then it will probably cost you more in attorneys’ fees than the value of the last property. Sure, you may get awarded the attorneys’ fees in the judgment, but then comes the next step: trying to collect on the judgment. You’ll probably need to get an attorney to handle this for you also, or you’ll need to turn it over to a judgment collection firm, and they will likely keep between 35-50% of what they’re able to collect on your judgment.
In short, it’s just not worth it. You’re better off, by far, just paying for some storage space and leaving the rental property completely vacant for the new tenant. This is what we require of the properties we managed, and it’s advisable for all landlords, whether they use a management company or not.