Generally, when the resident turns in the keys and surrenders possession in writing there cannot be any dispute that the resident has surrendered possession. If one of these events occur, generally there is no need for the sheriff. If neither of these events occur, then you are forced to make a judgment call either based on the abandonment clause in your lease, the general law of abandonment, or both. An abandonment clause may give you specific rights in taking back your property without the need for the sheriff.
Abandonment clauses can vary significantly. A solid abandonment clause will spell out in detail what circumstances constitute abandonment. If you do not have this clause it is provided in the Documents section under Leases on this website. There may be other circumstances when you can take possession without the sheriff because the resident has abandoned. Because the abandonment law depends on the facts and circumstances of each case, the abandonment law is discussed in greater detail in the firm’s Briefing Paper on Abandonment located in the resource center. Briefing papers are only available to firm clients.