By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you’re behind on your rent, can your landlord take your stuff?

A New York apartment dweller thought he had been robbed when he came home to find that his apartment had been cleaned out including his prized Mariano Rivera bobblehead and oh yeah, all his family pictures. Turns out his landlord had hired a junk removal company to trash everything in apartment 2B because the tenant didn’t pay the rent. He, however, lived in apartment 2D, which was dumped by mistake. Sorry, my bad.

Needless to say, this story is going to end in court but it raises the question: if you’re behind on your rent, can your landlord keep and/or dump your personal property? The answer is a qualified yes.

Every state has tenant protection laws, but a lot of the landlords’ right to change your locks or keep – or dump – your stuff is based on what is in the lease you signed when you moved in and, in some states, once he’s gotten an eviction court order.

In most states, landlords can only get your stuff after at least 30 days after they’ve notified you but if you can’t pay your rent, don’t ignore those letters. Work out a payment plan or contact your county’s legal aid society – don’t stick your bobble head in the sand and hope it goes away. Or else it really could.