Abandoned Tenant Property in Florida: A Guide for Landlords
As a landlord in the Sunshine State, encountering a tenant’s abandoned personal property can be a puzzling scenario. What are your rights? What are your responsibilities? This is a common dilemma in property management that necessitates an understanding of Florida’s laws. In this blog, we’ll navigate the complexities of tenant abandonment law, ensuring you’re prepared to address this issue legally and effectively.
Understanding Tenant Abandonment
Tenant abandonment occurs under two primary circumstances: either the tenant leaves without notice for an indefinite period, signaling a clear intention not to return, or the lease has expired or terminated, and the tenant’s belongings remain on the premises. For our purposes, when a tenant has been evicted the lease is considered to have been “terminated”.
Identifying Abandoned Property
Under Florida law, specifically Section 83.59(3)(c), a property is presumed abandoned if a tenant is absent for a period equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. However, if the rent is current or the tenant has informed you of their absence in writing, this presumption does not apply. This means a tenant who is paid up or has communicated their intentions may not be considered to have abandoned the property. While a property may be presumed abandoned, we typically recommend obtaining a court order, unless the tenant has returned the keys and/or provided a written statement confirming they have abandoned or vacated the premises.
Steps for Landlords to Take
Once the tenant’s property is deemed abandoned, a landlord must follow the procedures set forth in Florida Statue Section 715.104 regarding notification of a former tenant of personal property remaining on property after tenancy has terminated.
- Determine Abandonment: Evaluate whether the tenant has truly abandoned the property according to legal standards. Document your findings meticulously.
- Provide Notice: If you lack a lease with the specific statutory waiver provisions, pursuant to Section 83.67(5) of the Florida Statutes, you’re required to give written notice to the tenant or presumed owner of the belongings. This notice should contain the necessary information as dictated by state law.
- Await Response: The tenant’s reaction, or lack thereof, will determine your subsequent actions. No response within a given timeframe may grant you the right to dispose of the property under Florida statutes.
- Manage the Property: After reviewing the statute, decide whether you are required to store, sell, or dispose of the property. Remember, the sale of abandoned property must typically be public and may involve holding a public auction.
- Address Storage Costs: You may be entitled to recover reasonable storage costs from the tenant, so it’s essential to keep an accurate record of these expenses.
Where the Confusion Lies
The most difficult part about dealing with a tenant’s abandoned property lies in what seems to be contradicting Florida Laws. We have already explained how Florida Statute Section 715.104 outlines the process of providing the tenant with notice of the abandoned property. However, the confusion lies when reading Florida Statute Section 83.62, which states that following an eviction, once the sheriff executes the writ of possession or at any time thereafter, the landlord or the landlord’s agent may remove any personal property found on the premises to or near the property line. Unfortunately, the Florida legislature has yet to provide Florida landlords with clear direction on how these situations are to be handled.
The safe bet is after a writ has been executed and the tenant’s possessions are moved, Fla. Stat. §715.104 sets in to ensure that the tenant has a fair opportunity to retrieve their possessions and that the landlord takes no undue advantage of the situation. Compliance with both statutes ensures that the process is fair and equitable, reducing the risk of further legal action and ensuring that both landlords and tenants are protected under the law.
Preventative Measures When Drafting Your Lease
To minimize the complications arising from tenant abandonment, it is prudent to include specific language in your lease agreements. Utilizing our residential lease drafting services can save many headaches in the long run. This language should cover the event of abandonment and provide for a waiver on notice to tenants, in line with Florida Statutes.
Morey Law Firm, P.A.: Your Trusted Landlord Attorneys
At Morey Law Firm, P.A., we focus on landlord-tenant law and can provide skilled advice tailored to these delicate situations. We offer services ranging from drafting comprehensive lease agreements to representing landlords in disputes regarding abandoned property.
When a tenant abandons their personal property, it can be a challenging situation for any landlord. The key is to act within the bounds of Florida law, protecting your interests and avoiding potential legal repercussions. For landlords seeking to navigate these waters smoothly, our team at Morey Law Firm, P.A. is here to provide the necessary legal support.