Have you “abandoned” your unit?
If you are behind in your rent, your landlord may try to figure out if you have “abandoned” your unit. If the landlord finds the three things listed below to be true, the landlord doesn’t need to send a termination notice or got to court to get possession back. 9 V.S.A. § 4462. So, you should make sure to let the landlord know that you intend to keep living there.
The landlord can decide the unit is abandoned if all three of these things are true:
1. There are circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe no one is using the unit as a full-time residence, and
- The law uses the word “circumstances” to mean more is required than going there once and knocking on the door.
2. The rent is not paid up, and
3. The landlord has tried to find out from you where you are and what your plan is. Be sure your landlord has all your contact information.
- The landlord has to phone you, text you or email you.
- The landlord has to write to you and wait for an answer.
- It is not enough for the landlord to ask your social worker or probation officer about your intentions. The landlord has to make an effort to know what you intend, not what somewhat else says about you.
So, keep in touch with you landlord. For example, if you are sick and go to the hospital for weeks you should make sure the landlord knows you plan to come back. Or, if you go away for weeks or months, keep your rent paid up.
Landlord duties if you abandon your unit
The landlord cannot legally decide you have abandoned until after the landlord has tried to find out your plan. But, if the landlord tries to communicate with you but cannot, your rent is behind, and no one lives in your unit:
- You still owe rent until the landlord re-rents the unit. 9 V.S.A. §4462. The landlord must take your belongings that are not trash or garbage and put them in a safe, dry location. 9 V.S.A. § 4462(c)(1).
- The landlord can throw out your trash or garbage.
- The landlord must send you a written notice to your last known address (this could be the unit you rented) that she or he intends to dispose of your property in 60 days unless:
- You claim it by sending a reasonable written description of it to the landlord, and
- Pay the reasonable and fair cost of storage and the landlord’s related expenses, including the cost to dispose of your trash or garbage. 9 V.S.A. § 4462(c).
- If you do write and claim your belongings, the landlord must make them available to you. 9 V.S.A. § 4462(c)(2).
- If you don’t claim your belongings in 60 days, your belongings become the landlord’s belongings. 9 V.S.A. § 4462(c)(2).
These rules mean that If the landlord fails to safeguard your property, or fails to return it to you, you can sue the landlord for the value of the property. You can bring the lawsuit yourself in small claims court or the civil division.