Don't Assume Unoccupied Unit Is Abandoned

Don't Assume Unoccupied Unit Is Abandoned

Don’t jump to the conclusion that a household has abandoned its unit just because you haven’t seen members of the household for a while and none of the members told you they were vacating early.

Say you haven’t seen a household at your site for a few weeks, and the household’s mail has been piling up. Also, another resident tells you she saw the household leave with large boxes in the middle of the night. In this situation, you’ll want to re-rent the unit to a new household. And if it’s a low-income unit, you’ll need time to find a household that qualifies. But before you consider the unit unoccupied, make sure the unit has been abandoned. Proving abandonment isn’t an exact science, but you should be able to show the IRS, your state housing agency, or a court that you investigated the situation and it’s reasonable to believe that the household left for good.

The best way to do this is to talk with other households, staff members, or the mail carrier to get more information. Also, note whether any rent is past due and check for other signs that the household abandoned its unit, such as whether the household disconnected its phone service or other utilities. Document your findings and show them to your site’s attorney to see whether you have enough evidence to prove abandonment. If your attorney says you do, then you can treat the unit as unoccupied and re-rent it to a new household.

The best way to document your efforts to determine whether a household has abandoned its unit is by using a checklist. For help in putting together a checklist to use at your site, see “How to Prove Abandonment, Decide When to Change Locks,” available to subscribers here.

And for more on keeping all types of unoccupied units in compliance, see “Follow Five Dos & Don’ts When Managing Unoccupied Units,” available to subscribers here.