Answer: Under Oregon law, the property of deceased tenants is considered “abandoned” and must be treated as such. The park must issue an abandoned property notice as required by ORS 90.425.
As required by the statute, the abandonment notice must state that: (a) The RV and any other property left behind is considered abandoned; (b) Any lienholder, owner or heir must contact the landlord within 45 days to arrange for the removal of the RV; (c) All other personal property (including the pickup truck) must be “claimed” by contacting the landlord within 8 days after the notice is mailed, and removed within 15 days after contacting the landlord; (d) The RV and other property are stored at a place of safekeeping; (e) Any lienholder, owner or heir may arrange for removal of the RV and other property by contacting the landlord at a described telephone number or address on or before the specified dates; (f) The landlord will make the RV and other property available for removal by appointment at reasonable times; (g) The landlord may require payment of removal and storage charges; (h) If any lienholder, owner or heir fails to contact the landlord by the specified date, or after that contact, fails to remove the RV within 30 days or other property within 15 days, the landlord may sell or dispose of the RV and other property; and, (i) If there is a lienholder, owner or heir of the RV or other property, they have a right to claim the property.
The park must send the notice to the tenant’s park address addressed to “The Estate of [Tenant].” The notice must also be sent to any other known address for the tenant’s relatives or contact person (sometimes listed on the tenant’s rental application). The park must additionally conduct a title search on the RV and send the notice to any lienholder or other owners listed on the title. (Contact the Oregon DMV with the license plate number to determine lienholders or owners on title.) The notice must be sent by regular first class mail, except that lienholders and owners listed on the title (if any) must additionally be sent the notice by certified mail.
While not required by the statute, I also recommend that my clients also conduct a similar DMV search for lienholders or owners on abandoned vehicles (besides the RV). If any are listed, the abandonment notice should also be sent to them via 1st class and certified mail. However, the statutes do allow park owners to post a 72-hour tow notice on abandoned motor vehicles that can then be towed away by a qualified tow company instead of following the abandoned property notice requirements. Most tow companies can provide information on the process that needs to be followed in such circumstances.
In any event, after the park issues the abandonment notice, the RV, pickup truck, and other property can be removed from the rented space to open it up for a new RV tenant. The abandoned RV, vehicle and personal property must be stored in a “place of safekeeping,” such as an on-site storage lot.
If the RV remains unclaimed after the 45-day period expires, the park can either throw away or give away the RV if the park estimates that the current fair market value is $1,000 or less, or so low that the cost of storage and conducting an auction probably exceeds the amount that could be realized from a sale. The same holds true for the vehicle and other personal property if unclaimed after the required 8/15 day claiming periods. If the estimated value of any particular piece of personal property (e.g., the RV, vehicle, or other property) is more than $1,000, the park must hold an abandonment auction using the procedures described by the abandonment statute. Since the abandonment auction process is complicated, the park should consult a knowledgeable attorney to handle that aspect, if necessary.