What to do with ex-roommate's stuff?
April 26, 2010 11:27 AM   Subscribe

My roommate moved out and left a ton of stuff behind. What do i do with it?

Ok my roommate just moved out abruptly. It turned ugly. I'd rather not go into the details. But luckily she left with her rent all paid up and no damage to the apartment. I gave her back her half of the security.

However, she left four big boxes of stuff in our storage space, plus a giant empty suitcase. The boxes are full of stuff like a comforter (blanket), lots of old magazines, assorted wires and books... in other words, nothing of great value.

what should i do? can i just toss it? am i legally obligated to hold onto it for a certain amount of time? I am in NYC if that matters. and no, contacting her to ask is not an option!

i guess i can call the attorney general, but i'd like some opinions first. thanks!
posted by silverstatue to Human Relations (16 answers total)
Maybe send her a general email? You could just mention that you will hold onto that stuff for a week and if she doesn't claim it, you'll get rid of it. Then donate it or put it on Freecycle or Craigslist or something.
posted by floweredfish at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2010

Since contacting is not an option, I'd say to hold onto it for about 2 weeks. If she's upset, it gives her time to cool down and decided whether or not to pick her stuff up. After that, I second floweredfish's suggestions.
posted by Sakura3210 at 11:33 AM on April 26, 2010

"Just moved out" as in within the last couple of days? Then I would say, be the bigger person here. Give them 30 days to pick it up or ask for it. If the move-out was abrupt as you say it was, they may have other concerns at the moment.

Then put it on the curb and let the trash guy pick it up. It's not cool to expect free storage for an indeterminate amount of time.
posted by contessa at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2010

I'd donate it after a month.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2010

I know you don't want to contact her, but if you have a forwarding address, I would send her a formal letter. Depending on how ugly it got, I would want to protect myself as much as possible. If you don't have an address, an email is the next best option. In clear writing, though--don't phone or text. Maybe something along the lines of this:

April 26, 2010

Dear Roommate,

When you moved out of the apartment at [address] you left four large boxes of your belongings in the shared storage space. If you want to reclaim these items, please come pick them up or send someone by to pick them up by [future date and time]. If you no longer want them, I can dispose of them for you, just let me know. If I do not hear back from you by [future date and time] and your belongings are still here, I will have to get rid of them to [make room for future roommate, etc].

Thank you,

posted by phunniemee at 11:37 AM on April 26, 2010 [13 favorites]

Do you have a current mailing address? If you do, then send a certified letter stating that your ex-roommate left some of her belonging behind, you would be happy to arrange a time for her to pick them up, and that you will be disposing of anything that remains after 30 days.
posted by indyz at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2010

Yeah - definitely put your attempts into writing and give a clear time frame (30 days). You can make a detailed list of what's in there, to cover yourself... unless you think she might accuse you of "snooping."
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:43 AM on April 26, 2010

Unless there are lawyers involved and you can't contact her without jeopardizing yourself legally, this is completely silly. Be adults, send a brief, totally neutral email or text that says "you have left some stuff, you have 30 days to get your stuff. -silverstatue"

Or use a third party if you need to. Contact her best friend, boyfriend, whoever, and let them know she has 30 days to collect her stuff and that she can do it when you are not there by giving your storage keys to the third party and having them supervise.

Contacting the attorney general is ridiculous overkill and a waste of their time. No, you can not just throw her stuff on the curb right now, and common sense tells you that. You have not exhausted non-legal remedies to this situation and so what the law says is not your main concern. Your main concern is how to handle this maturely and fairly with a minimum amount of contact. If roommate starts being unreasonable, then see about your legal position.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

I do not have her forwarding address. i will try to email her, but i suspect she has blocked my email. i can try to go through a third party, but i dont know if that is legally binding (i.e. if her friend or relative says its ok to toss it, am i covered?)

She moved out a week ago. I can hold the stuff for a couple weeks, no problem. I just dont wanna hold it forever. My apt is super tiny and a new roommate will be coming in soon!

I want to be fair to her, but not be taken advantage of.
posted by silverstatue at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2010

There's some sort of law about how you should hold onto it for a reasonable length of time, after which you can claim it for yourself "in lieu of storage fees." At that point, you can do with it as you see fit - dispose of it, sell it, give it to charity, etc.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:21 PM on April 26, 2010

I think you should create a new gmail account and email her a formal warning that you will put her boxes on the curb after a month if she doesn't contact you to make another arrangement or pick them up. cc all her family members and friends that you know of, maybe one of them will come pick it up.
posted by meepmeow at 1:13 PM on April 26, 2010

I agree with holding the boxes for as long as possible (after the clear time frame) and contacting friends and relatives (save the emails) but wonder if taking pictures of the items might be helpful in case ex-roommate claims later that the boxes contained heirloom quilts or expensive first editions. I would not Craigslist the items; that has the appearance of impropriety. And wait to even start the clock on this one, if it "turned ugly."
posted by Morrigan at 2:45 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Given that things were unpleasant, I'd give her extra time. Use the intermediary, and be extra polite. "Would you let Ex-roomie know that I want to arrange to get her stored belongings to her. " 1 week later: "Is there a w ay I can contact Ex-roomie about her belongings? Is there someplace safe I can deliver them to?" 1 week later: "Sorry to put you on the spot, but I need to arrange for Ex-roomie's belongings some time in the next month."
posted by theora55 at 3:43 PM on April 26, 2010

You don't have to contact her to ask, you just have to contact her to tell.

Just send an email saying that you will dispose of the stuff within 30 days. Mention that she can contact you directly to make arrangements to pick it up, or she can contact the landlord (or perhaps a more convenient intermediary).
posted by KokuRyu at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2010

I agree with others who say hold her stuff for a month, then dispose of it BUT is there a lease involved? Was she on the lease or are you on the lease and she is a sublettor? If the latter is the case, then she may be considered your tenant and you may have more specific rules to follow (i.e. you may have to store her stuff for 60 days or something like that). I don't know what the rules are where you live (and I live in Canada), so you might want to check on that.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:17 PM on April 26, 2010

Also: if email is your only line of contact, email her. If it bounces back undeliverable or whatever, keep a copy to prove that you at least tried to contact her.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:18 PM on April 26, 2010

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