Handling Abandoned Tenant Belongings in Florida

Understanding Landlord Obligations for Tenant’s Belongings During Eviction in Florida

Navigating the eviction process in Florida can be complex, especially when it comes to handling a tenant’s personal belongings left in the property. Florida Statutes provide clear guidelines that landlords must follow in such situations. Here’s what landlords need to know:

1. Post-Writ of Possession:

First and foremost, a landlord cannot legally remove a tenant’s belongings from the property until a writ of possession is issued in the eviction case. This writ is essentially a court order granting the landlord possession of the property and is a critical legal step in the eviction process.

2. Lease Agreement Clauses:

If the lease agreement contains specific language regarding the handling of abandoned property, landlords may have more flexibility. In cases where the lease clearly states the landlord’s rights to the tenant’s property upon eviction, the landlord can act accordingly without providing additional notice to the tenant.

3. Handling Tenant’s Belongings Without Specific Lease Clauses:

In situations where there is no written lease or the lease lacks specific language about abandoned property, landlords must follow a more structured process:

  • 15-Day Notice: The landlord must provide a 15-day written notice to the tenant and any third party known to have property in the premises. This notice is crucial and must be duly served to give the tenant or third parties an opportunity to claim their belongings.
  • Post-Notice Period: If there’s no response from the tenant within the 15-day period and the value of the items is under $500, Florida Statute allows the landlord to retain or dispose of the property as they see fit.

4. Handling High-Value Items (Over $500):

For items whose total value exceeds $500, the process is more intricate:

  • 15-Day Notice: The landlord must provide a 15-day written notice to the tenant and any third party known to have property in the premises. This notice is crucial and must be duly served to give the tenant or third parties an opportunity to claim their belongings.
  • Public Sale: The landlord must initiate a public sale of the items. This involves publishing a notice of the sale for a few weeks in advance. The notice must accurately describe the property to be sold.
  • Post-Sale Procedures: After the sale, the landlord can use the surplus to cover costs related to the sale and storage of the items. If there is any remaining surplus, the tenant has 30 days to claim it after being notified. If the tenant does not claim this surplus, it must be paid to the County.

5. Documentation and Record-Keeping:

  • Maintain Records: It’s vital to keep detailed records of all communications and notices sent to the tenant. This includes the 15-day notice and any correspondence regarding the eviction and handling of belongings.
  • Inventory of Belongings: Before disposing of or selling any items, landlords should document the belongings left behind. This inventory should be thorough, noting the condition and estimated value of each item.

6. Legal Considerations for the Sale of Belongings:

  • Public Notice Requirements: The sale of belongings valued over $500 must be publicly advertised, typically in local newspapers or online platforms. This notice should include the date, time, and place of the sale, along with a description of the items.
  • Sale Proceedings: The sale must be conducted in a commercially reasonable manner. This means that items should be sold for a fair market price, and the sale should be open to the public.

7. After the Sale:

  • Deducting Expenses: After the sale, landlords are entitled to deduct expenses related to storage, moving, and selling the items from the proceeds.
  • Handling of Surplus: Any surplus funds from the sale (after deducting expenses) should be kept for the tenant. If the tenant does not claim these funds within 30 days of notification, the landlord is required to submit the surplus to the County.

Morey Law Firm, P.A.: Your Trusted Orlando Eviction Attorneys

Landlords in Florida must tread carefully when dealing with a tenant’s personal belongings during an eviction. Adhering to the specific requirements of the Florida Statutes and the terms of the lease agreement is crucial to avoid legal complications. It’s always advisable for landlords to consult with legal professionals to ensure compliance with these laws and to handle eviction proceedings appropriately.

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