What to do if a tenant abandons their personal property?

by John Morey | Jun 03, 2015

It is inevitable that at some point a landlord will need to deal with the issue of abandoned property. This can occur in a couple difference circumstances.  On one hand, a landlord could face the issue when the tenant has abandoned the property altogether by leaving for an indefinite period of time without giving notice. On the other, a landlord could face the issue when the lease has expired or been terminated yet the tenant fails to take all of his or her possessions with them.

In the first situation, the lease has expired or been terminated, whether by eviction or abandonment. Furthermore, the written lease agreement has specific language, required by Florida Statute, regarding waiver on notice to tenant of abandoned property. The first step is for the landlord to determine whether the property is actually abandoned as defined by Florida law. Section 83.59(3)(c) of the Florida Statute states:

When the tenant has abandoned the dwelling unit. In the absence of actual knowledge of abandonment, it shall be presumed that the tenant has abandoned the dwelling unit if he or she is absent from the premises for a period of time equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. However, this presumption does not apply if the rent is current or the tenant has notified the landlord, in writing, of an intended absence.

For example, a judge is likely to find that a tenant abandoned a rental unit so that the landlord was entitled to remove the tenant’s property when the tenant left the premises without paying his/her monthly rent and without advising the landlord of his/her absence. In this situation, it is possible that no further action is needed. However, this is not always the case.

The second situation is a bit more involved for the landlord. This situation also arises when the lease has expired or been terminated, whether by eviction or abandonment, and the tenant has left behind personal property in the rental unit. Furthermore, in this situation the parties have a verbal lease agreement or a written lease agreement, but lack the special language mentioned above. Because of this, Florida law requires the landlord to give written notice to the tenant, or any person he or she reasonably believes to be the owner of the property. In order for that notice to be proper, it must contain the information required by Florida law.

Depending on the tenant’s response, or lack thereof, Florida law dictates whether the property must be returned to the tenant, sold at public auction, or kept by the landlord. Also, whether the tenant is liable for reasonable storage costs.

At the Morey Law Firm, we can help determine your rights under Florida law and determine the proper action to take when a tenant abandons personal property. We can also help by providing you a written lease agreement with the waiver provision mentioned above. Contact our office today via our website’s free case review or by phone at (407) 426-7222(407) 426-7222.