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This form is used by a property manager or landlord when rent has been due and unpaid for 14 consecutive days or more and the landlord believes the tenant has vacated the leased premises and left personal property, to commence the landlord-initiated personal property disposition process and advise the tenant of their right to reclaim or abandon it.


Your use of RPI Form 581

Surrender, forfeiture and abandonment

landlord or their property manager may enter a tenant’s unit when:

  • the tenant’s right of possession has ended or been terminated; and
  • the tenant has vacated the unit.

However, the tenant vacating the property does not automatically trigger a termination of the tenant’s right of possession. [See RPI e-book Real Estate Property Management, Chapter 4]

The tenant’s leasehold right of possession is terminated by:

  • the expiration of a lease or rental agreement [See RPI Form 550 and 551];
  • surrender;
  • forfeiture; and
  • an abandonment.

surrender is a mutual cancellation of a lease agreement by the landlord and the tenant, written or by their conduct, when the tenant vacates the leased premises. [See RPI Form 587]

forfeiture is the termination of the tenant’s right of possession triggered by a declaration of forfeiture in a notice to quit. [See RPI Form 575 §5]

An abandonment is a unilateral termination of a tenancy by forfeiture, delivered by the landlord based on notices from the landlord. [See RPI Form 581]

Statutory abandonment notice

The abandonment rules, like surrender rules, apply to both residential and commercial property. The commonality between surrender and abandonment is the tenant’s breach of the lease and vacating the premises.

They differ, however, on the methods for terminating the tenant’s right to possession and handling the landlord’s rights under the lease agreement regarding the collection of future rent. A surrender is a mutual termination agreed to by both the tenant and landlord, while an abandonment is a unilateral termination by forfeiture based on notices from the landlord. [See RPI e-book Real Estate Property Management, Chapter 32]

Further, abandonment is to be distinguished from a three-day notice containing a forfeiture declaration. Both methods retain the landlord’s right to enforce collection of future rents under the lease agreement while terminating the tenant’s right to retake possession. However, their differences are in the time that needs to pass after serving the notices until the landlord may retake possession of the property.

An abandonment may be noticed and carried out when a tenant:

  • voluntarily vacates the leased premises with no intention to reoccupy; and
  • fails to pay rent with no intention to further perform their obligations on the lease agreement.

For the landlord to proceed with the abandonment process, they need to first confirm the tenant’s intent to abandon the property and terminate their right to possession. The tenant’s intent is confirmed by the landlord serving a statutory abandonment notice on the tenant. [See RPI Form 581]

Notice of Belief of Abandonment may be served on a tenant only when:

  • the tenant has vacated the premises;
  • the tenant’s rent payment is due and unpaid for a period of at least 14 days prior to service of the Notice of Belief of Abandonment; and
  • the landlord reasonably believes the tenant has abandoned the premises. [Calif. Civil Code §1951.3(b)]

The notice of abandonment may be served on the tenant by either:

  • personal service; or
  • first-class mail sent to the tenant’s last known address and any other addresses known to the landlord where the tenant might reasonably receive the notice. [CC §1951.3(d)]

When the abandonment notice is personally served on the tenant, the tenant has 15 days after the date of service to respond before the notice expires. When the abandonment notice is served by mail, the notice expires 18 days after the date the notice is deposited in the mail. [CC §1951.3(c)]

Abandoned personal property

Tenants who vacate the leased premises occasionally leave significant personal property behind.

When a landlord is confronted with a unit or space vacated by the tenant that is loaded with abandoned personal property, the notice of abandonment may be an efficient way to terminate the tenant’s right to possession. Thus, the landlord may take possession of the property on termination of the tenancy without concern for claims by the tenant.

Before serving a notice of abandonment, a residential landlord may temporarily enter the vacated premises to establish their reasonable belief the tenant abandoned the premises. [CC §1954(a)]

Even when the tenant has left personal items behind, a landlord’s observations while inside the unit or space may lead them to reasonably believe the premises is abandoned. [CC §1951.3(f)(2)]

When the landlord exercises their right to temporarily enter the unit when a tenant appears to have abandoned it, the landlord may inventory the personal property so it can be itemized in the abandonment notice. [See RPI Form 581 §5]

When personal property worth less than $700 is not reclaimed by the tenant before the notice expires, the landlord or property manager may keep, sell or destroy the property without further notice to the tenant. [CC §1984]

When the total worth of the abandoned personal items is $700 or more, the abandoned personal items are sold at public sale by the landlord or property manager. The property manager advertises the public sale prior to its scheduled date in a local county newspaper of general circulation. [CC §§1988(a); 1988(b)]

The landlord or property manager may use reasonable belief to estimate the value of the items. [See RPI e-book Real Estate Property Management, Chapter 33]

Breaking down the abandonment notice

A commercial or residential landlord or property manager uses the Notice of Belief of Abandonment published by Realty Publications, Inc. (RPI) when rent has been due and unpaid for 14 consecutive days or more and the landlord believes the tenant has vacated the leased premises and left personal property behind. The form allows the landlord or property manager to commence the landlord-initiated personal property disposition process and advise the tenant of their right to reclaim or abandon it. [See RPI Form 581]

The Notice of Belief of Abandonment contains:

  • Facts about the rental or lease agreement, including the date it was signed and entered into, the tenant and landlord’s identities and the legal description of the real estate rented or leased [See RPI Form 581 §1];
  • Notices, such as the response date, set 15 days after the notice when personally served, or 18 days after the notice was sent by first class mail or emailed [See RPI Form 581 §2];
  • Disposal of personal property information, including whether the value of the personal property left behind by the tenant is worth more or less than $700 [See RPI Form 581 §§5, 6, 7 and 8]; and
  • Signatures of the landlord or property manager, their address and phone number and the date.
Revision history

Form navigation page published 10-2022.

Form updated 2016.