What to Do If Your Subtenant Takes Some of Your Stuff

By Christine Ascher on September 21, 2017

When you start the process of subletting your apartment, you’ll quickly realize that there are a lot of risks involved with having someone else live in your property for an extended period of time.

The main concerns involved with subletting typically involve the potential for damage in the apartment and the consequences that you’ll face if your subtenant ends up not paying rent on time. However, anytime you leave your apartment in someone else’s hands — unless it’s completely empty when you hand it over — you also run the risk that your subtenant will take some of your stuff with them when they move out.

Because you won’t be able to rely on your landlord to fix the situation, you should know how to handle it yourself — and, if you haven’t sublet yet, how to prevent it from happening.

Image via https://pixabay.com

What to Do:

Be polite

When you first move back into your apartment and discover that some items are missing, it’s important not to immediately contact your subtenant with angry accusations. After all, if they were living there for several months, they may have taken something as a genuine mistake during the chaotic moving process.

Contact them with this in mind; list the items that are missing and politely ask if they can check to see if they’ve taken them along by mistake. If you don’t receive a response, or your subtenant seems to be lying, then you can start to change your tone and become a little bit more serious.

Be persistent

Even if you don’t receive a favorable response right away, keep trying; hopefully, you’ll eventually wear down your subtenant until they cooperate with what you need. The more you contact your subtenant, the more likely they’ll be to feel compelled to respond and cooperate with you.

Even if they didn’t intend to take something from your apartment, they may forget or be reluctant to undergo the inconvenience of sending it back to you, so if you continue reminding them, they’ll hopefully step up to the plate sooner or later.

Offer multiple solutions

While technically your subtenant is in the wrong in this situation, you’re more likely to get a positive result if you make the solution as easy as possible. Suggest different ways that they can return your items to make it as easy as possible for them. If you live in the same area, for instance, offer to drop by to pick up the items that they took. If it’s too far, ask them to send it by mail.

In the event that your subtenant took some of your stuff by accident, they’ll hopefully feel compelled to return it in a way that’s convenient for you. If, however, it was intentional, you’re more likely to get your stuff back if you take the initiative and offer a solution that’s more convenient for them. While it’s certainly annoying, you’ll be more likely to achieve a favorable result.

Ask your landlord for advice

If you need further advice, your landlord is a great source of information and experience. They’ve probably dealt with their fair share of difficult tenants, and they can help you figure out how to approach the situation. While your landlord doesn’t have any official power over your subtenant, they can let you know what they would do in this situation — after all, they may have been in a similar situation with their own tenants.

Refer to your contract

If your subtenant doesn’t seem cooperative, refer to your contract to see what can be done. Depending on the conditions that you included in the leasing contract that they signed, you may be able to use that to give your appeals some additional weight. If necessary, your contract can also help you appeal to a higher power, who may be able to hold your subtenant responsible. Start by consulting your landlord for help and go from there.

How to Prevent the Situation

Leave as little as possible behind

Of course, the best way to ensure that your subtenant doesn’t move out and take some of your stuff with them is to take everything important out of the apartment before you turn it over. While this certainly seems like a no-brainer, it’s surprisingly easy to get lazy when you’re moving out and decide to just leave stuff behind to make it easier on yourself.

If this urge comes over you, remind yourself that anything you leave in the apartment is liable to be stolen. No matter how much you trust your subtenant, you don’t truly know what they’ll do if they’re given the chance; even if they are trustworthy, they may still take something of yours as an honest mistake.

Include a security deposit in your subleasing contract

To give yourself some added security and an edge that you can use to negotiate if your subtenant does take some of your possessions along with them, include a required security deposit in the lease that they sign. This way, if you do find some of your stuff missing when you move back into your apartment, you can withhold some of that original security deposit until they return whatever they’ve taken.

This will provide them with an incentive to return the items and, if they don’t, you’ll hopefully be able to replace them with that bit of their deposit.

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a junior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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