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Personal Property in an Eviction: What Happens to Your Things?

House & Apartment

This article answers some questions about what happens to your personal property after you have been evicted or have abandoned a rental property.

Can my landlord remove my personal property after I have been evicted?

Yes. A Writ of Possession is a court order that allows a landlord to take back the home. A Writ of Possession can be obtained six days after you lose your eviction hearing in court. Once your landlord gets a Writ of Possession, they can begin the final steps to evict you. Soon after the landlord gets the Writ of Possession, you will get a 24 hour notice to vacate. After this 24-hour period is up, an officer will come and allow the landlord to remove you and your personal property from the premises.

What happens to my personal property once I am evicted?

What happens to your property depends on your landlord. Texas Property Code 24.0061(d)(2) allows the removal of your personal property from the rental unit. Once removed, the property must be placed outside the rental unit, usually at a nearby public area. It may not block a public sidewalk, passageway, or street.

Furthermore, the landlord cannot put your personal property put outside if it is raining. If it is raining, the landlord must either wait to remove your property or put your property in a nearby storage container. Make sure you collect your property from this container as soon as you can. The storage container may be gone after only a short while.

Is there any requirement that my landlord has to store my personal property?

Not usually, but sometimes yes. The Texas Property Code does not require that a landlord store your property. However, a Writ of Possession does let an officer decide whether to hire a warehouseman. A warehouseman is somebody who removes and stores your property. In this arrangement, you pay the warehouseman to get your property back. Some counties require this arrangement.

Can I stop a warehouseman from taking my belongings?

Yes. Texas Property Code 24.0062(b)(2) allows you to demand the warehouseman stop moving your property. You have to make this demand either before they remove your property or before they leave the premises. In this case, you do not owe any moving or storage charges.

A warehouseman has my belongings. What does this mean?

A warehouseman is a person who removes and stores your personal property. In some cases, Texas Property Code 24.0061(e) lets an officer  hire a warehouseman to remove and store your property. The warehouseman then receives a lien on your personal property. You have 30 days to pay the lien amount. After 30 days, the warehouseman may sell your property.

How do I get my property back from a warehouseman?

You can get your property back by paying the warehouseman’s lien on your property. Under Texas Property Code 24.0062(a), the lien amount is the reasonable cost of storing and moving your personal property. You can pay at any time until your property is sold. Your property may not be sold for at least 30 days from the day your property was stored.

If I only want some of my property back, do I still have to pay the entire warehouseman’s fees?

No. Within 30 days after your personal property has been removed and stored, you can pay for specific property back. You do not have to pay for all of the property stored by the warehouseman. Texas Property Code 24.0062(e) sets out 16 categories of property that can be paid for separately. This means that you can pay for specific pieces of your property that falls into one these categories. Some of these categories are:

  • Clothes
  • Family libraries and pictures
  • Beds and beddings
  • One couch, two living room chairs, a dining table and chairs
  • Food and medical supplies
  • One automobile and one truck
  • Children’s toys
  • Cash

After this 30 day period, a warehouseman can require that you pay for all of the property. This means that you can no longer pay for specific pieces of property. Instead, you must pay the moving and storage costs for all of your property.

What will happen if I do not pay the warehouseman?

If, after 30 days, you do not pay the warehouseman fees, they can begin to sell your belongings. You can pay for and claim your property at any time until it is sold. However, you have no rights to any legally sold property or any of the proceeds. The warehouseman does not have to give you notice before selling your property.

Can I get my personal property back if it is or was being improperly held from me?

Yes. You can sue in Justice Court if your property was wrongly taken and stored. Texas Property Code 24.0062(i) allows you to sue both your landlord and the warehouseman. For example, if your landlord locks you out of your home illegally and removes your property, you can sue both the landlord and the warehouseman to get your property back.

My landlord or warehouseman improperly sold off or is withholding my personal property. Can I claim any damages against them?

Yes. Texas Property Code 24.0062(k) says that you can sue for damages. If you win, you will get your property back. Or, if the property has already been sold, you are entitled to the value of that property instead. You are also entitled to the following damages. You could also win any actual damages, attorney fees, and court costs.

What happens to my property if I leave it behind before I am evicted?

If you leave property behind before you are evicted, the property may be considered abandoned. Texas Property Code 92.0081(b)(2) allows a landlord to remove abandoned property. Your lease may define what abandoned property is. Your lease may also lay out the rules for what can happen in such a case. If the property is considered abandoned, you no longer have any rights to it. A landlord will have the right to sell, keep, or throw the property out.

Note: A Writ of Possession allows a landlord to remove your property from the rental unit. This is true even if the property is not abandoned. A landlord can get a Writ of Possession six days after winning an eviction hearing.

My landlord improperly locked me out without evicting me in court. How can I get my belongings back?

If your landlord will not give you a key to the new lock, you may consider filing a lawsuit. In some cases, improperly locking you out and withholding property is a violation of your rights. Filing a Writ of Re-Entry allows you to return to your home upon a wrongful lockout. A Writ of Retrieval allows you to retrieve any personal property left behind.

You may also have other claims against your landlord for an improper lockout. See this article for information about lockouts, including what your rights are and how to enforce them.

What can I do to prevent my personal property from being left behind?

You should make an effort to move your property out of a rental unit before you are evicted. If you do not have another living arrangement yet, think about the following tips:

  • Ask friends and family. See if they can store some property for you.
  • If you can afford a temporary storage unit, this may work as well.
  • Ask your landlord if you can be given more time to move your property out. Try to state an exact date when you can have the property moved out by.
  • Try contacting local organizations or the authorities to see if they assist you. They may be able assist you or recommend someone who can help you.

Am I liable for any damages my personal property causes after being removed?

No. You are not liable for any damages caused by your personal property. After it has been removed from the rental unit, you do not have any further obligations. It is up to the landlord and officers to ensure your property does not cause damage. They are required to move your property to a nearby location which doesn’t block a public sidewalk, passageway, or street.

Can other people take my personal property after being removed?

Regrettably, most likely. After your property has been removed, you must reclaim the property. If you do not reclaim it, you are giving up all rights to the property. Your landlord and constable have no duty to watch over your belongings. Although the property is still yours, unless you reclaim the property, other people may take it. It may be very hard to get property back if someone takes it.

How long do I have to remove my personal property once I receive an eviction notice?

In Texas, the entire eviction process takes about three weeks. If you lose your eviction case, your landlord can get a document called a Writ of Possession after six days. The constable will give you a copy of the Writ of Possession at least 24 hours before forcibly removing you from the home.

Make sure that you stay involved throughout the eviction process. This is true even if you know you probably will end up being evicted. Staying involved will let you know when important dates will take place so that you can move your personal property in time.

More Information

Illegal LockoutsLockout information, including forms for the Writ of Re-Entry (which allows you to return to your home upon a wrongful lockout) and Writ of Retrieval (allows you to retrieve personal property you left behind).

Texas Property Code Section 92.0081: Texas statute about lockouts and property removal.

Eviction GuideHelpful information for tenants.

Texas Justice Court Training Center Eviction Packet: Information and forms relating to eviction court.

Texas Property Code 24.0062: Texas statute about warehouseman’s rights and liens.

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