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Editorial: Fair deal on tenants’ possessions

Editorial: Fair deal on tenants’ possessions

Compromise on how long landlords have to store ex-tenants' belongings is fair to both sides
Editorial: Fair deal on tenants’ possessions
Photographer: Shutterstock

The Schenectady County Legislature has reached a reasonable compromise over the issue of former tenants leaving behind belongings for their former landlords to store or discard.

Landlords have long complained that a law that requires them to store an ex-tenant’s furniture, clothes and other personal items for six months after the tenant has left a rental unit created an undue financial burden for them. 

They were right.

Rather than remove items to a storage container or other location within the building, many landlords will simply padlock the rental units containing the former tenants’ possessions until someone comes to claim them.

That effectively prohibits landlords from being able to rent out the vacant rental unit for as long as six months, a costly and unfair mandate. 

In an editorial we wrote in November when changes in the time frame were first proposed, we agreed that once the contractual agreement between landlord and tenant had officially been terminated — either through the expiration of the lease or the conclusion of formal eviction proceedings — the landlord had no obligation to hold onto the former tenants’ possessions at the landlord’s own expense.

But we also understood the financial and logistical realities that some tenants face in moving from one location to another. It’s not always easy or affordable to secure a truck and people to move furniture and clothing at the drop of a hat.

The six-month requirement for storing items is clearly too long. But requiring immediate removal of items, as some landlords wanted, would be too burdensome and unfair for some tenants.

So the Legislature reached a fair compromise.

It will drop the six-month removal period down to 30 days for landlords in the county and for those in the city of Schenectady who participate in the city’s rental certificate program. Landlords in the city will be required to present proof they have a valid certificate in order for the 30-day storage rule to apply to them.

Leases that contain specific time frames for how long a landlord must hold onto a former tenant’s possessions will override the new timetables. That should eliminate a lot of confusion and conflict over the issue for both sides.

We realize that the landlords wanted the Legislature to go further. But this law is a big improvement in their favor.

It realizes the primary goal of lessening the obligations of landlords to store former tenants’ possessions for an unreasonable period of time, while protecting otherwise good tenants who might not be able to immediately claim their possessions due to circumstances beyond their control.

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