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Abandoned Property (rusted non-mobile trailer)

Tenant left without paying 2 months' rent. Abandoned a 26 foot ancient camper-trailer (no motor), rusted, flat tires, and refuses to move it. Police won't help because they say it is on a private road and he was a tenant, = civil matter. But he towed it here, unregistered, with no title and no plate. Also, it remains in that illegal state and I hope that is against the law, even if it is on private property. He took it from a foreclosed property that he was cleaning out for Fannie Mae: he was never the owner. Orleans DC said it was not something for small claims. And they are booked until October. I need some kind of court order to make him move it IMMEDIATELY (it has been there since OCTOBER). What kind of storage fees can I charge? THANKS

 
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A question and some follow up

Ennobler, One question: it sounds like your tenant left of their own accord, that is to say they were not evicted as the result of summary process through the housing/district court. This would make a slight difference since if you had gone through the eviction proceedings, the constable charged with executing the eviction would have been authorized (and obligated) to arrange for the removal of all the tenants belongs as well. Unfortunately, even in this situation, it seems that MA law requires the LANDLORD to bear the expense of removing any stuff left behind in the event the tenant is unwilling or unable to pay, which is usually the case in an eviction. This appears to be intention of Mass. Gen. Laws, Ch. 239, s. 4(c):
 
"(c) The plaintiff [i.e. the landlord] in the summary process action shall pay the costs of removing the property to the place of storage. The plaintiff shall be entitled to reimbursement by the defendant for any costs and fees so advanced."
 
What this means at the least is that, given the landlord is responsible for removal and storage of tenant's belongings even during eviction, it seems that in the absence of eviction, they would similarly be obligated to bear that expense. Of course, it is possible both in and out of the context of eviction to seek reimbursement from the (former) tenant in small claims or district court. But before one could seek reimbursement in the form of damages for removal/storage costs incurred, those damages have to be actual. In other words, a person would already have to lost money on the removal costs. If property is, for examples, still located w/ the landlord, they have not yet technically suffered any monetary damage and therefore don't have a cause of action to bring to small claims or other court.
 
There seem to be two other aspects to property a tenant leaves behind. You mention a court order, and it seems that it might be possible in such a case to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring a former tenant to remove their property. Technically they would be involved in a trespassing of sorts. It's unclear how any law enforcement officials would enforce this TRO, however, since it would start to look a lot like the eviction proceedings described above.
 
More likely than that is that property left behind by a tenant who was not the subject of an eviction proceedings is simply considered "abandoned". Abandoned property becomes the legal property of the first person to find or lay claim to it by taking possession. Since the property is then legally the finders, they can sell or destroy that property as they see fit, to the extent the law allows. However, there are certain procedures that must be followed to establish that property is abandoned. They can be found at the state treasurer's website (not to be confused with the provisions for abandoned property in the course of a probate or estate, as contemplated by M.G.L. ch. 200A):
 
 http://abpweb.tre.state.ma.us/abp/abp_regs.htm
 
More generally, you shouldn't expect that anything concerning property, personal or real, is ever going to take place "immediately" in MA or any other state that I'm familiar with. The only good advice here is preventative: make doubly sure any tenants you rent to in the future seem as reliable and trustworthy as possible. If you want to dispose of the property legally, this will inevitably take time. That said, the fees for the TRO are not very prohibitive and it might be worth getting one to see if it gives you any extra leverage w/ your local law enforcement. The lengthier process of declaring the property abandoned in order to acquire rightful ownership to sell or destroy the property can be started commensurate to the TRO and serve as a "plan B" should, as seems likely, little or nothing come of the TRO. If you are in county that has a special housing court division, you can acquire the TRO there, otherwise any district court can issue them.

Abandoned trailer on private road

Thank you for your very thoughtful reply.

Actually, when he abandoned the trailer, he was NOT a tenant. That happened 2 months later and during that time I did let him leave it there as he was hoping to sell it to someone. Plus it is non-mobile so there is the expense of a flat bed truck, disposal and so on. I have had posts on craigslist for months and months, and even the sheet metal guys think it is too much work to gut the substantial interior for the aluminium exterior.

This scofflaw claimed he was a tenant in my former, now foreclosed, house and got $3000 cash for keys from the bank/realtor.

I understand that in MA now you have to combine suits, but I hope I am correct in surmising that

1) Fraud/extortion is a criminal offense and had to do with house #6.
2) I have $7000 of loss and damages when he was a tenant in house #5, a civil matter.
3) The trailer was abandoned last Fall when he was claiming to be a tenant in #6 in order to get the cash for keys and to leave his trailer on the private road that services both houses. Should I request the TRO as part of suit 1) or suit 2?

THANKS SO MUCH!!

Liz

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