When a unit is sold at a sheriff’s sale to satisfy a personal money judgment or foreclosure judgment to satisfy a lien, the interest being sold is that of the real property only. Such interest does not include an interest in the personal propertyleft behind by the former owner. The ownership interest in the presumably abandoned property remains in the name of the former owner of the unit. Whether property is abandoned depends on the intent of the owner. Unfortunately, many times, the unit has been abandoned before the sale has taken place, so one can only assume that the former owner intended to abandon the personal property unless there are subsequent communications with the owner. Despite same, there is not necessarily a legal right to throw the property away in most circumstances.
Upon taking title to a unit which contains personal property, after a sheriff or foreclosure sale, it is strongly recommended that the following steps be taken with regard to that personal property:
- provide reasonable notice to the former owner regarding their right to claim the property (30 days would be considered reasonable) – if unable to locate forwarding contact information, publication in a local newspaper may be deemed sufficient;
- if there is no response after the 30 day notice, the new owner can either schedule a private sale of the personal property (provided that the property is deemed in a reasonably good condition and of value) or store the property in a storage facility.
If a private sale is scheduled, you must publish a notice of the sale, identifying the property to be sold, the place and time of sale, and terms of sale. If the storage option is chosen, it is recommended that a self-storage unit is rented for a minimum of 30 days, with notice to the former owner of their right to claim the personal property and the location thereof. Should the former owner fail to claim the property after such notice, the storage facility will likely assert a storage lien against the property, and to dispose of the property in accordance with the law.