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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Olympia, Washington, United States
    Posts
    1

    Exclamation How to Get the Owner to Remove Property You Let Them Store at Your Home

    My question involves an eviction in the state of: Washington State

    This is a complicated situation, at least I think it is. I own my own mobile home in a park. Last November, my (now ex-) boyfriend was living with me and asked if his friend (and her son and boyfriend) could stay with us for a while. I'm a very nice person (sometimes TOO nice!), so I said okay. Well, she moved in an entire household worth of stuff, into my bedroom, shed, and front deck. Things were okay for a couple of weeks, until some of my neighbors made complaints against this girl's boyfriend (speeding and loud music in his car). The girl and her boyfriend both got notices to leave immediately (they had 72 hours to vacate) or they would be arrested for trespassing. I was understanding of my landlord's side, but I was also understanding of this girl's side. BTW, let's call the girl 'Katie'. Katie was going to have to couch surf, so I agreed to let her leave most of her stuff at my house. I even told her that she could leave it until she found a place, which I thought would be just a few months. Well, I found out on Christmas that my mom was moving in with me at the end of January. I let Katie know in the beginning of January that she needed to get her stuff out before my mom moved it, but Katie let me know that she had a warrant for her arrest, so she was turning herself in any day, and would be in jail for the rest of the month. I've told her multiple times since then that she NEEDS to get her stuff out. Now, I'm needing to sell my house, but I can't list it with all of her stuff here, because it's so crowded that nobody could really see some things that need repairs, and my bedroom floor is falling apart because of water damage, and I can't fix it because she still has a bunch of furniture in there. I don't have an address to send any legal letters to her, and she keeps saying that she is moving into a place, but it's been weeks of excuses and I'm needing her stuff out ASAP. What are my legal options? She was only here for 2 weeks, and wasn't on any kind of lease or written agreement.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    18,340

    Default Re: How to Get the Owner to Remove Property You Let Them Store at Your Home

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    Unfortunately, she was your tenant, in spite of no lease or written agreement and the WA landlord tenant statute covers tenants' abandoned property in RCW 59.18.310.

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18.310

    Never mind the rent part, just read what you have to do about the abandoned property, especially the part about written notice. You'll need to follow the procedure to the letter otherwise you risk getting sued for the value of the property.

    Since you need to clear her stuff out in order to repair and sell your home, self-preservation gives you no choice but to rent a self storage place and move all her stuff. Once you get her stuff out you'll be able to concentrate on locating her for proper written notice. I know, you'll have to spend money to store her stuff. That's too bad, but it's your tuition for a life lesson from the school of hard knocks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
    Posts
    98,846

    Default Re: How to Get the Owner to Remove Property You Let Them Store at Your Home

    This is not a situation where a tenant moved out at the conclusion of her tenancy and left property behind, as contemplated by the statute. This is a gratuitous bailment, where the homeowner agreed to store a friend's property for an unspecified period of time and now wants to end that arrangement. Even if we assume that the courts would view the friend as a tenant, which does not seem likely under the stated facts, we would be in a situation in which the landlord consented to store the property. In a bailment situation, the owner continues to hold ownership rights and is in constructive possession of the property.

    When you're a gratuitous bailee, as a general rule, a gratuitous bailee is liable only for gross negligence that results in the loss of or damage to property in your possession. If you are later accused of conversion, a claim of abandonment can be offered as a defense. Given that the OP knew that her friend would be couch surfing, if it were me I would go beyond the terms of the landlord-tenant statute in terms of providing her notice of a date after which the property would be removed from the premises. Apparently there is continuing contact between Katie and the OP, such that notice can be given (and ideally documented) even if not mailed. Disposal of the goods presents something of a conundrum, as although I don't think the OP has a duty to follow the landlord-tenant statute under the facts, such a statute can by analogy reflect a reasonable set of steps to take, and the outright disposal of the property could be claimed to violate the duty of care. At the same time, there's a cost in removing the property to another location and for storage at that location. If there's no reason to incur that cost, the property can be kept where it is during the notice period.

    On the whole the statutory framework for disposal of the property is probably one that can reasonably be followed, with the caveats that if I were trying to apply that framework to this type of situation I would take additional steps to ensure that notice were received (in addition to the mailing described in the statute), and I would not attempt to charge storage fees or make return of the property conditional on payment (as a gratuitous bailment cannot be unilaterally converted to a bailment for hire), and absent some need to remove it to another location I would leave the property where it is during the notice period to avoid incurring unnecessary cost.

    It's also possible that, were you to discuss the situation with a Washington lawyer, the lawyer might suggest a different approach, as it's possible that we're being excessively cautious given how the local courts have responded to similar situations.

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