Hypothetical Scenario: A 19 year old "friend of a friend of a friend" type situation that someone was trying to help out. He was living in a rundown trailer a few towns away so a nice family said he could stay with them for a bit and they'd help him get established in the nice family's town.

After a few weeks he got a job at Walmart. Two days before he was supposed to start he just left the nice family. He moved in with someone else about a hundred miles away. He left all his stuff at the nice family's house, which just consists of a few boxes and some motorcycle parts. It would all fit in a truck.

The Nice Family offered to bring the stuff to him but he said he wouldn't help unload it.

The nice family is being told that they must go through the eviction process. I know questions like this confirm, possibly, but is the nice family's situation different?

Can the nice family tell the 19 year-old that all his stuff is in their barn and he has 30 days to come get it? If he doesn't, they will sell it and keep the money? (While the 19 year-old was with the nice family, they paid hundreds of dollars for things like getting his car out of impound, not to mention food and other stuff.)

Thoughts? Other info needed?

I tagged this landlord even though I feel like they did not have a "tenant-landlord relationship", legally or otherwise.

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    Thanks @Mr_V, that was really awesome of you. Being my first time posting here, I would have expected you to just vote for close. Above and beyond! Aug 26, 2016 at 13:52
  • I edited the question so it wasn't asking for specific legal advice. So, in this hypothetical, what makes the "nice family" think the 19 year old was a tenant?
    – Mr_V
    Aug 26, 2016 at 13:54
  • The only reason they think he was a "tenant" is because that's what they were told by the cops. I don't think the cops had all the information at the time though. Aug 26, 2016 at 13:55
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    Your question should be "Do I have any legal responsibility for items left from a live-in?". Jul 3, 2022 at 3:06

1 Answer 1


Your question seems to be about abandoned property and whether Missouri’s statute on disposing of property after a tenant abandons his/her property applies. See Mo. Rev. State. Ann. § 441.065 (“Abandonment of premises, disposition of remaining property.”)

Assuming there was no agreement (in writing or orally) for the 19 year-old to pay rent, he was most likely a guest and not a tenant. As a guest, landlord-tenant laws, would not apply to the property that that was left at the nice family’s house. The definitions section of Missouri’s landlord-tenant statutes (and common sense) support this analysis. See Mo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 441.005.

Therefore, the issue them becomes did the 19 year abandon his property? To that question, I think the answer is yes.

Missouri Courts have defined the test for “abandoned property” in Herron v. Whiteside, 782 S.W.2d 414, 416 (Mo. App. W. Dist. 1989), stating:

Abandonment is the voluntary relinquishment of ownership so that the property ceases to be the property of any person and becomes the subject of appropriation by the first taker. Wirth v. Heavey, 508 S.W.2d 263, 267 (Mo.App.1974). Abandonment of property requires intent plus an act. Id. A sufficient act is one that manifests a conscious purpose and intention of the owner of personal property neither to use nor to retake the property into his possession. Id. Intention to abandon may be inferred from strong and convincing evidence and may be shown by conduct clearly inconsistent with any intention to retain and continue the use or ownership of the property.

Herron, 782 S.W.2d at 416.

So to synthesize that passage from Herron, the court is saying that there is a 2 part test for determining if property is abandoned.

  1. Did the person intend to abandon the property?
  2. Did they commit some act to show this intention?

If the answer is yes, to both, they the “first taker” or person that gets possession after the property is abandoned is the new owner.

Here, it seems that the 19 year-old intended to abandon the property. He left without explaining why and stated that he would not unload the property if the nice family tried to return it (implying he would not accept the property back). Looking at the second part, him moving without giving notice, and telling the nice family that he won’t accept delivery of the property are both acts showing his intent to abandon the property.

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    Thank you for the amazing answer! One question: It was clear he was not expected to pay rent, but there was a verbal agreement that he would take care of the nice family's yard (which he did not fulfill to their expectations). Is he still a "guest"? Aug 26, 2016 at 14:42
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    Second question: If he received mail at the nice family's address, does that affect his tenant/guest status? Aug 26, 2016 at 14:44
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    I've been searching but all I can find is that in "some states" if he received mail he may be considered a tenant. Aug 26, 2016 at 14:52
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    @Scott - Whether someone is, or is not, a tenant is a fact specific question. While you say there was no agreement to pay rent, the 19 year-old could try argue that his promise to do yard work, was "rent" under an oral lease agreement. Rent doesn't have to be money, one could exchange work for a place to live. The most conservative approach to the situation would be for the nice family to treat the 19 year-old as a tenant who abandoned a lease, and follow the procedure in Mo. Rev. State. Ann. § 441.065.
    – Mr_V
    Aug 26, 2016 at 19:18
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    As well, if I remember correctly, some states deem anyone who stays for a period of time specified within the law subject to the eviction process. This is designed to protect innocent people who are suddenly kicked out of housing arrangements. The nice family should be careful that they are not violating the law even as the 19 year old has vacated. The lack of notice is key. Who says he is not intending to return? We know he is not, but you have prove intent there also. I am a landlord in a state(s) where these laws do not exist, so I have never had to deal with them. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Aug 27, 2016 at 0:23

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