You have a lot to deal with when it comes to tenants, and one of the more sticky situations is when a tenant abandons the property. When a tenant leaves the property and doesn’t return, what responsibilities do you as a Florida landlord have in this situation with regard to whatever the tenant leaves behind?
Is it abandoned according to Florida law?
The first question that needs to be answered is whether the dwelling is abandoned such that the property within it is also abandoned. This situation comes up when a tenant leaves without paying rent and leaves their property behind. Under Florida law, a dwelling is abandoned when the tenant is gone from the property for a period of time that is the equivalent of one-half of the rental payment period and has not paid the rent in advance. So for example, if rent is due the first of the month, and the tenant is gone on that day and still has not returned on the 15th of the same month, then under the law, the property can be considered abandoned.
What should I do then?
The first thing you should do in this situation is to not dispose of the property in any way until you have fulfilled the requirements of Florida Statute Section 715.104. Under this statute, the first thing the landlord must do is provide written notice to the tenant or anyone else whom the landlord believes to be the owner of the property. The notice must include a specific description of the property and must inform the tenant or owner that they have 10 days to retrieve the property, if the notice is hand delivered. If the notice is mailed, the tenant has 15 days in which to come get their property.
If no one comes to claim the property…
If no one comes to claim the property within these times periods, then the landlord has to decide what to do with the property. If the property is worth less than $500, then the landlord has three options:
1) The landlord can take ownership and possession of the property
2) The landlord can get rid of the property, or
3) The landlord can sell the property and keep the proceeds
Where the property is worth $500 or more, things become more complicated. In this case, the assumption is that the landlord will sell the property. In doing so, the landlord must advertise for two consecutive weeks in a general circulation newspaper that the property is being sold. After this process and assuming the property sells, the landlord can deduct their costs for storage, advertising, and selling the property, but must remit to the county treasury the rest of the proceeds that are not claimed by the abandoning tenant. To determine costs for storage, the landlord must use a fair market rental value for the space that was needed to store the property.
If you are a landlord facing this issue or any other involving tenants and need legal advice, contact Brian Chase, whose practice covers the entire state of Florida. No matter what Florida county or jurisdiction you are located in, he is an advocate for landlords everywhere. Call (813) 241-8269 today to get started.