When you enter into a rental agreement with your landlord, you are given legal possession of the rental unit for the lease term. The landlord can still enter the rental for specific reasons, but he is limited due to your right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of the home. If you are in a dispute with your landlord, he might try to harass you into leaving the apartment without going through the eviction process by removing personal property from your home or property.
The tenant has legal possession of the property under the rental agreement, while the landlord has limited rights of entry. The only reasons that a landlord may enter the tenant's property pertain to certain circumstances such as repairs and inspections. The landlord has no legal right to property in the tenant's home without the express permission of the tenant.
The landlord may be attempting an act called a self-help eviction. A self-help eviction occurs when the landlord tries to force a tenant out of the home without going through an eviction lawsuit. Without a judgment from the eviction case the landlord has no legal grounds to possession of your residence or property, unless the property is left on common grounds.
The landlord may have thought the rental unit was abandoned if the tenant did not inform him that he was leaving for a long period of time. Miscommunication may be cleared up with a simple conversation, as most states' landlord and tenant laws require the landlord to store tenant property for a certain amount of time before declaring it abandoned. If the landlord maliciously removed tenant property, the tenant can sue to receive the property back or for damages.
Other than suing for the property or monetary damages equal to the value of the property, a tenant can contact the local housing authority or police department to report the landlord's actions. If the landlord is consistently harassing the tenant, removing property or entering the rental unit without proper notice, the tenant may sue for constructive eviction. Constructive eviction occurs when the landlord or his agents make it impossible for the tenant to peacefully enjoy his home. Constructive eviction cases generally recover costs related to the tenant finding another home.
A landlord does not have full legal access to the home while a tenant lives there. The landlord is prohibited from taking possession of any personal property until after the tenant has been evicted from the home. The tenant has a set time period to collect stored property after eviction before the landlord can regain lost rent by selling the items.