Personal Property...Identifying It,
Moving It, and Removing It

Identifying personal property left inside or outside of a vacated home in foreclosure can be a very subjective enterprise. Here's the bottom line, we don't want to remove and dispose of anything that the owners could say, "You got rid of some very valuable property of mine."

Even though the homeowners have moved out, they still own the property, and therefore everything on it.

As mentioned elsewhere, one time we removed some furniture and other items after an eviction. The homeowner told us he didn't want anything that was left in the house. A few months later he tried to sue us for $175K, saying that, without his permission, we disposed of his personal property. If this happened after we talked with the homeowner, imagine what might happen if you remove personals from a home without talking to the homeowner!

Take Photos of Personals

As soon as you arrive at an abandoned/vacated property, you need to take photos of all the debris that is present, and make bids to remove it all. You should divide your photos and bids into up to eight separate categories:

  1. Interior Health Hazards
  2. Exterior Health Hazards
  3. Interior Personals
  4. Exterior Personals
  5. Interior Debris
  6. Exterior Debris
  7. Personals in Way of Grass Cut
  8. Debris in Way of Grass Cut

When to Move or Remove Personals

As soon as the property is vacated, the bank will generally approve a bid to move exterior personals that are in the way of a grass cut. You can move them to a patio/deck in the rear of the house. Additionally, your client will usually approve a bid to move exterior personals that in the front of the property, to a place either inside the garage/house, or to the rear of the house.

When the foreclosure process is finally complete, and the homeowners have been given the required legal notice (which varies from state to state), then all the remaining debris, including personals, will be removed.

Why Move Personal Property?

The reasons for moving, rather than removing, personals seem clear:

  • Debris in the front of the house makes the property susceptible to vagrancy, vandalism, and code violations
  • Debris in the way of the grass cut means you'll have to mow around it, and the long grass will again make the property susceptible to vagrancy, vandalism, and code violations
  • The bank doesn't want to remove personals prematurely because of both the liability and the cost

How To Identify Personal Property

One large national bank that is a client of ours describes personals in this way: "Anything that can be used for its intended purpose." This, unfortunately, is not very helpful to those who are trying to identify personals. When it's time to remove personal property, other clients demand that contractors catalog and place a total garage sale value on all that could be deemed personals.

Generally, when the combined garage sale value of personals does not exceed somewhere between $300-500, then most clients give approval to remove it as debris.

Can You Keep This Stuff?

When you have received approval to remove personals — or any debris — do you have to take it to the dump? We've never had a client tell us that we could keep any of the stuff for ourselves, or give it away, or sell it. But then, we've never been told we couldn't, either.

Many times, rather than pay to dump debris, we have given reusable and recyclable items to Goodwill, scrap metal collectors, and people who are checking craigslist for free stuff. Usually we don't have the interest, time, or space to take much stuff home.

In addition to moving personal property, when a property is first vacated, the mortgage companies want hazardous materials removed.