Abandoned Property & Liens

Landlord liens on Personal Property:
Under the non-residential landlord-tenant laws if the tenant fails to pay rent then the landlord shall have a lien on all property of his tenant not exempt by law, placed upon or used on the leased premises, until the rent is paid. The lien shall not secure the payment of rent accruing after the death or bankruptcy of the lessee, or after an assignment for the benefit of the lessee’s creditors. When premises are sublet, or when the lease is assigned, the landlord shall have the same lien against the sub lessee or assignee as he has against the tenant and may enforce the lien in like manner. A.R.S. § 33-362.

If the tenant refuses or fails to pay rent owing and due, the landlord shall have a lien upon and may seize as much personal property of the tenant located on the premises and not exempted by law as is necessary to secure payment of the rent. If the rent is not paid and satisfied within sixty days after seizure as provided for in this section, the landlord may sell the seized personal property in the manner provided by § 33-1023. When premises are sublet or the lease is assigned, the landlord shall have a like lien against the sub lessee or assignee as the landlord has against the tenant and may enforce it in the same manner. A.R.S. § 33-361

Sale of Personal Property:
If the lien has continued for twenty days after the charges accrue and remain unpaid, the person holding the property may notify the owner, if in the county where the property is located, to pay the charges. Upon failure of the owner within ten days thereafter to pay the charges, the holder of the property may sell it at public auction and apply the proceeds to payment of the charges. The balance of the proceeds shall be paid to the person entitled thereto. If the owner’s residence is not in the county where the property is located, the holder is not required to give the ten days’ notice before proceeding to sell. Five days’ notice of sale shall be given to the owner if he can be found, and if not, then by two publications in a newspaper published in the county.

If the person legally entitled to receive the balance is not known or has removed from the county, the holder shall pay the balance to the department of revenue. If the party, at any time within two years from the date of payment to the department of revenue, establishes his right to the money to the satisfaction of the director of the department of administration, it shall be paid to him. After two years, all unclaimed monies shall be deposited in the permanent state school fund. A.R.S. § 33-1023.

Residential – Landlord Tenant provisions for Abandonment and storage of personal property:
What is “abandonment”? A.R.S. § 33-1370. For the purposes of this section it means either the absence of the tenant from the dwelling unit, without notice to the landlord for at least seven days, if rent for the dwelling unit is outstanding and unpaid for ten days and there is no reasonable evidence other than the presence of the tenant’s personal property that the tenant is occupying the residence or the absence of the tenant for at least five days, if the rent for the dwelling unit is outstanding and unpaid for five days and none of the tenant’s personal property is in the dwelling unit.

After the landlord has retaken possession of the dwelling unit, the landlord may store the tenant’s personal possessions in the unoccupied dwelling unit that was abandoned by the tenant, in any other available unit or any storage space owned by the landlord or off the premises if a dwelling unit or storage space is not available. The landlord shall notify the tenant of the location of the personal property in the same manner prescribed in subsection A of this section.

The landlord shall hold the tenant’s personal property for a period of ten days after the landlord’s declaration of abandonment. The landlord shall use reasonable care in holding the tenant’s personal property. If the landlord holds the property for this period and the tenant makes no reasonable effort to recover it, the landlord may sell the property, retain the proceeds and apply them toward the tenant’s outstanding rent or other costs which are covered in the lease agreement or otherwise provided for in title 33, chapter 10 or title 12, chapter 8 and have been incurred by the landlord due to the tenant’s abandonment. Any excess proceeds shall be mailed to the tenant at the tenant’s last known address. A tenant does not have any right of access to that property until the actual removal and storage costs have been paid in full, except that the tenant may obtain clothing and the tools, apparatus and books of a trade or profession and any identification or financial documents, including all those related to the tenant’s immigration status, employment status, public assistance or medical care. If provided by a written rental agreement, the landlord may destroy or otherwise dispose of some or all of the property if the landlord reasonably determines that the value of the property is so low that the cost of moving, storage and conducting a public sale exceeds the amount that would be realized from the sale.

For a period of twelve months after the sale the landlord shall keep adequate records of the outstanding and unpaid rent and the sale of the tenant’s personal property. Hold any excess proceeds which have been returned as undeliverable for the benefit of the tenant.

If the tenant notifies the landlord in writing on or before the date the landlord sells or otherwise disposes of the personal property that the tenant intends to remove the personal property from the dwelling unit or the place of safekeeping, the tenant has five days to reclaim the personal property. To reclaim the personal property the tenant must only pay the landlord for the cost of removal and storage for the period the tenant’s personal property remained in the landlord’s safekeeping.

Recovery of Rents/Use:
In most cases the rightful owner can sue for recovery of rents, or a fair and reasonable satisfaction for the use and occupation of the property, pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-1271. In addition to determining the right to actual possession, the court may assess damages, attorney fees and costs pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-1178.