With the signing into law of 2011 Wisconsin Act 143, a landlord’s obligations with regard to a tenant’s abandoned property has just gotten much easier.

Under the old law, a landlord had three options with respect to a tenant’s abandoned property. They were:

  1.  Store the tenant’s abandoned property on or off the premises and take a lien on the property for the actual and reasonable cost of removal and storage of the property, or
  2.  Dispose of the property if the tenant didn’t reclaim it within 30 days of the landlord sending the tenant written notice of the abandoned property, or
  3.  Store the abandoned property without a lien and return it to the tenant.

Some landlords got themselves into trouble under the old law. Some would forget to send out the abandoned property notice to the tenant. Some would dispose of the abandoned property prior to 30 days after mailing the notice. Others would refuse to return the tenant’s property unless the tenant paid up all past due rent. If the tenant’s abandoned property had value sometimes these landlord would get sued.

Wisconsin’s new law regarding tenant’s abandoned property is simpler.

As long as a landlord provides written notice to the tenant either at the time that the tenant enters into the rental agreement or renews the rental agreement that the landlord is not going to store any of the tenant’s abandoned personal property, a landlord is allowed to immediately dispose of the abandoned property in any manner that the landlord, in his sole discretion, feels is appropriate.

There are two exceptions to the new law.

First, in the case of prescription medication or prescription medical equipment, a landlord must hold such items for 7 days from the date of discovery to allow the tenant time to retrieve those items. If the tenant contacts the landlord within the 7 day period and requests the return of the medical items the landlord shall promptly return them to the tenant. After the 7 days have passed, the landlord is allowed to dispose of the medical items in any way that he determines to be appropriate.

Second, if the tenant has abandoned a titled vehicle or a mobile or manufactured home, the landlord must give the tenant and any secured party written notice of the landlord’s intent to dispose of the titled vehicle or mobile/manufactured home. Service may be personal or by regular or certified mail addressed to the tenant’s last known address.

Suggested language to include in a lease or renewal is as follows:

ABANDONED PROPERTY: Landlord will not store any items of personal property that tenant leaves behind when tenant vacates.