Minnesota Law When Is Property Abandoned

People often ask when they may consider property left on their premises as abandoned. The answer may depend on whether the person storing the property is a business or an individual and the nature of the relationship between the parties and any agreements that may have been reached with the original owner of the property regarding storage of those possessions. This issue arises in the context of a landlord tenant relationship, when a tenant leaves behind property, and to storage of property by individuals such as a situation when an ex spouse in a divorce has not retrieved assets awarded in a divorce property settlement.

With regard to the landlord-tenant situation, specific guidance is provided by Minnesota Statutes 504B.271. Generally, after a tenant has left the premises, a land owner may take possession of the tenant’s personal property remaining on the premises, and must store and care for the property in a reasonable fashion so that the property is not damaged or destroyed. The landlord has a claim against the tenant for reasonable costs and expenses incurred in removing the tenant’s property and in storing and caring for the property.

The landlord may sell or otherwise dispose of the property 60 days after the landlord receives actual notice of the abandonment, or 60 days after it reasonably appears to the landlord that the tenant has abandoned the premises, whichever occurs last. The land owner must, however, make reasonable efforts to notify the tenant of any sale of the property at least 14 days prior to the sale, by personal service in writing or sending written notification of the sale by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the tenant’s last known address or usual place of abode, if known by the landlord, and by posting notice of the sale in a conspicuous place on the premises for at least two weeks. If sold, the land owner may apply a reasonable amount of the proceeds of the sale to the removal, care, and storage costs and expenses. Any remaining proceeds of any sale shall be paid to the tenant upon written demand.

In a situation where an individual, including an ex spouse, has failed to retrieve stored items, absent the application of any court order or specific statute relating to the property, Minnesota Statutes 345.75 controls. If property has not been removed within six months after it comes into the possession of a person, it may be considered abandoned and shall become the property of the person in possession, after notice to the prior owner. Thirty days’ notice that the time period has elapsed and that the ownership will be transferred at the end of the 30 days shall be given to the prior owner personally or by certified mail, which is actually received. If the name of the prior owner is not known, and cannot be ascertained with reasonable diligence, three weeks’ published notice shall be given in the county where the property is located. The prior owner or another person claiming an interest in the property may petition the district court to stay the transfer of ownership for a reasonable period to allow the removal of the property. The transfer is stayed while the petition is pending before the court.