Landlord Tenant Dispute – Stolen Items?

Landlord-tenant dispute – Commonwealth of Virginia

I signed a lease for a rental property. Contained within the lease was a clause that allowed me to move and store my items in the basement area on 7/26/2010 while the “turn” was being performed on the upstairs portion with actual physical move-in date of 8/4/2010. The property management company did not communicate the clause to their cleaning crew and all of my items were removed from the property and placed in storage. When I learned of this removal I demanded that they return the property, which they did minus some valuable items, including: 2 motorcycle jackets, approx. $50 in change, 2 wristwatches, several football cards, a cell phone, and an MP3 player. The nature in which these items “disappeared” from the moving boxes, obviously speaks to theft (all of the silver change was taken leaving only pennies, a new watch was removed from it’s watch box within moving box, the football cards were taken out of a small cash box packed in a moving box). I requested that these items be returned and no further legal action would be pursued. The cleaning crew and the property manager came out on 8/7/2010 to help “locate” the items, which was a pointless effort as I knew the items were not returned and would not be found among my other property returned from the storage units. Of course, they were unable to locate the items. The cleaning crew swears that they did not take the items. I filed a police report for the theft of the items on 8/7/2010.

While I did have a renter’s insurance policy in effect, I do not feel that I should have to lose the value of the deductible, require my insurance company to pay for items, and pay a premium increase, for items that were stolen as the result of the property management company’s incompetence. So the next course of action is to initiate a lawsuit against the property management company for the value of the missing/stolen items. What on what grounds should I pursue a civil lawsuit? Negligence? Also, if I were to hire an attorney, could I sue the property management company to recoup his fees?

Any advice or assistance is greatly appreciated. If you happen to be an attorney in the Blacksburg, VA area and are interested in representing my interests in this case, please let me know.
The does state that they are “not responsible for stored items”. However, I do not think that would hold up in court as they/their agents were the responsible parties that caused loss of the items through negligence and/or trespass to chattles.

Posted in Landlord Tenant Law.

3 Comments

  1. What does your lease say about the landlord’s responsibility if your personal items are stolen or damaged? I’m betting it says the landlord is not responsible. If that is the case, your only recourse is to file a claim with your renters insurance and let them attempt to subrogate against your landlord’s insurance.

  2. I would speak to the LL about paying your deductible. It was HIS responsibility to communicate that the stuff was to remain when the cleaners came.

  3. You mentioned a property management company- I would call them and let them know that between the manager and cleaning company, your stuff is missing. I would also tell them that you did file a police report and you want something done about it. A management company would care about their reputation (I would think) and maybe they could find a better cleaning company. Threaten to call local consumer news.

    I lived in a complex and when I had a complaint, I went over the manager’s head because he did nothing. I did get results and quickly. Good luck to you.

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