Homeowners have a second house

We are buying a house at auction where the homeowners actually live in Arizona. They drive back to california just to deal with their bankruptcy case, but they don’t stay more than a few days in the house. When we buy the house at auction and they are not home on that day can we change the locks right away knowing that this is actually their “second home”. Obviously we will put a posting on the door with our information, but I am wondering if it is illegal to change the locks? We don’t have to technically kick them out so it seems like it should be ok. They do have a lot of junk in and outside of the house, but I assume they are probably just leaving it.


Regardless of this CA property being a 2nd home for the soon to be “ex” owners, it does not take much to establish occupancy (their Arizona residency notwithstanding). I presume the property is:

  1. NOT rented out to full time tenants
  2. Is NOT 100% vacant and contains “some” personal items/property of the owners (furnishings, clothing, etc.). Even a mattress, blanket and a bathrobe could be enough to establish occupancy.

If conditions 1 or 2 above exist, then the owner may well be able to claim/establish their occupancy and you will need to follow “notice” and/or negotiation ($4keys) protocols.

If you opt to re-key following the trustee sale, you may need to promptly provide the “ex” owners with a key.

There is another thread on FR covering this topic (Notices/UD and personal property) in more depth here > http://www.foreclosureradar.com/forum/buyers-and-investors/buying-auction/can-someone-tell-me-what-should-i-do-if-previous-owner-has

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How would you even get a hold of the previous owners if they are only there a few times a month? There is no info on where they currently live. Can we re-key and post signs on the house for previous owner? Is there any time period that they have to come back to ask cash for keys?

Ask the neighbors, or last agent to list the property. Google their last name(s) in quotation marks (e.g. “Bo Gus Numburz”) followed by a comma + last known town in AZ (e.g. Flagstaff) and you might find info re their whereabouts or place of employment. Post a change of ownership notice on the door along with your contact info. If you re-key, and they come back to CA or claim occupancy, you will need to provide them with a key. So it’s important that you get in touch with them.

There are notice requirements and time periods covering abandonment of personal property, and how you should store and/or ultimately dispose of said property (covered in link above). But, I would make every effort to find and communicate with the "ex"owners. Unless they are in witness protection, you should be able to find them.

NOTE: If the property is ex-owner occupied, some investors will wait until they’ve recorded the trustees deed upon sale (TDUS), before taking *any* action other than drive by and insurance coverage. Depends on many different “if/then” variables.

You can’t simply change the locks. They still occupy the property, even if only part time. You should post a notice on the door as idannyb suggests. You should also immediately start an eviction. As part of that process you (or more typically the eviction service) are supposed to serve the eviction to them in person. If you are not able to do that, which seems likely, then you can get an “order to post”, that allows you to post the eviction on the property. Any decent eviction service can walk you through this.

The other thing I’d suggest is sending a fedex, or certified letter, to the owners tax mailing address. If they primarily live in AZ you may find that they actually use their AZ address as their mailing address for their tax bill. You can check the ownership box in ForeclosureRadar - that shows where their tax bill is mailed to.

Yes I do understand this, but the hard part is whether they come back to the property in a week, two weeks, etc. I cannot find their other address as their tax and bankruptcy paperwork goes to the house in CA. I was wondering if there is any time limit where if we post a 3-day notice and they don’t come back to the property whether we can move in?