Those who own rental property in Florida have often have to deal with property that is left after their tenant has moved out. Usually this is just trash that the tenant doesn’t want, like old Tupperware, food, magazines, etc. When you’re just dealing with garbage, you can just toss these items in the trash. But what about items that have value?
When a tenant leaves behind items of value, such as photo albums, furniture, bicycles, medicine, etc. there are specific laws that you need to follow as a rental property owner.
First, you need to ascertain if the tenant has indeed abandoned the property and the tenancy has ended. This can be determined if the rental agreement is expired by a certain date, the tenant has been evicted, or the landlord stops accepting rent after the expiration of the lease and notifies the tenant that their lease is expired. If the tenant has moved out of the property and the tenancy has ended, then you can consider any property left behind to be abandoned.
Once you determine the property is abandoned and of some value you will need to take an inventory and keep it in a secure location. You then must send the tenant a notice of the abandoned property. The notice should include:
- Description of the abandoned property
- Location where the property can be claimed.
- The time frame in which the property needs to be claimed
- A statement that if the property is not claimed in time, then it will be disposed of
- A statement that reasonable storage costs will be charged to the tenant and they must pay these costs when picking up the items.
This notice must be delivered to the tenant in person or in the mail. If the notice is hand delivered to the tenant, then the tenant has at least 10 days to claim the property. If the notice is mailed, then the tenant has at least 15 days.
If the property left behind is not claimed and is worth more than $500, you must sell it at a public auction.
Because dealing with abandoned property can be complex and confusing, an attorney who specializes in Florida real estate law can advise their client as to how the process works. They can make sure their client is following the law and protect the from liability.