After a tenancy has been terminated or expired, and the premises have been vacated by the tenant through eviction, surrender, abandonment, or otherwise, a landlord may find himself in possession of abandoned personal property which remains on the premises. Although a landlord may be tempted to immediately sell or dispose of the abandoned property, he may be subject to liability if he does not follow the proper procedures outlined by Florida law. The Disposition of Personal Property Landlord and Tenant Act provides the necessary guidance to avoid liability under these circumstances. See § 715.10, F.S., et .
Any personal property left behind should be left on the premises or stored safely by the landlord. A landlord has a duty to exercise reasonable care in storing the property, but he is not liable to the tenant or owner of the property for any loss.
Florida Abandoned Property Notice – How to Use
The first step a landlord should take to properly dispose of personal property is to notify the tenant, and any other person the landlord reasonably believes to be the owner of the abandoned property, that such property remains on the premises. The notice should be in writing, and it should describe all of the property left behind. The description should be detailed enough so that the owner of the property can identify it.
The notice should also notify the owner of the property where the property is being stored (if not remaining on the leased premises), and that reasonable costs for storage may be charged before the property is returned. There should be specific information as to where the property may be claimed and the date before which claim must be made. Such date must be a minimum of ten or fifteen days away, depending on how the notice is served. The Florida Statutes provide sample notice forms that should be used.
If the owner of the property, or anyone reasonably believed to be the owner, pays the costs of storage and acts to take possession of the property on or before the date specified in the notice, the landlord should release the property.
When is Property Considered Abandoned in Florida?
If the owner of the property does not respond within the time frame allotted, the landlord may take action to sell or dispose of the property. If the abandoned property is estimated to be worth less than $500.00, the landlord is free to dispose of it however he would like. If the estimated value of the abandoned property exceeds $500.00, the landlord should arrange for a public sale of the property at the nearest suitable place to where the property is held or stored. Before the sale may occur, notice should be published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation where the sale is to be held. The advertisement should include the name of the former tenant, a description of the property to be sold, and the time and place of the sale.
A landlord is permitted to bid at the public sale. The successful bidder’s title to the property is subject to ownership rights, liens, and security interest which have priority by law. After the costs of storage, advertising, and the sale have been deducted from the proceeds of the sale, the balance may be claimed by the tenant or property owner within thirty (30) days. If the funds are not claimed, they must be paid into the county registry. At that time, the landlord should be relieved of all further obligations regarding the abandoned property.
There may be similar circumstances where someone is looking to dispose of personal property even when the parties are not connected through a traditional landlord-tenant relationship. Although Chapter 715, Florida Statutes, does not expressly state whether this procedure applies in a situation not involving a landlord and tenant, it would seem reasonable to follow this procedure before disposing of unwanted property in order to avoid liability. It should also be noted that Florida law provides a separate procedure for items abandoned on public property, which involves law enforcement taking possession of the items and auctioning them. See Chapter 705, Fla. Stat.
This article provides an overview of the process for a landlord to dispose of property left at the premises by a former tenant. You should contact an attorney to determine whether this process is appropriate for your individual situation, and to obtain all of the information necessary to ensure compliance with applicable Florida law.