How Should Florida Landlords Handle Abandoned Property?

Investing in Florida rental properties can provide you with a second source of income or even allow you to build a portfolio large enough to become a full-time landlord. Keeping a steady flow of income means keeping your properties occupied, though.

The process of turning over a property from one tenant to the next will take some time, but the actions of the former tenant may impact what this looks like. Cleaning vacant properties becomes that much more difficult when a tenant leaves behind personal belongings. So, what does Florida law say about handling abandoned property from former tenants?

Notify the Former Tenant

Florida Statute 715.104 requires that the former tenant(s) or anyone the landlord “reasonably believes to be the owner of the property” be notified. The notice must cover each of the following requirements:

  • Adequately describe the property
  • Specify where the property can be claimed
  • Specify the date by which the property must be claimed
  • Mention that the owner of the property may owe reasonable storage costs when claiming the property (the costs can be assessed through Florida Statute 715.111)
  • Be personally delivered or sent by first-class mail (postage prepaid) to the last known address of the owner of the property

An adequate description of the property does not require you to describe every piece of property left behind, but you may be held liable if you fail to disclose property that would allow the owner to identify it. You cannot be held liable for a failure to disclose the contents of any trunk, box, or other containers that are locked, fastened, or tied in a manner that limits access to its contents. A description of the container itself would suffice in that scenario.

The date by which the property may be claimed must be no fewer than 10 days after the notice is personally delivered or no fewer than 15 days after the notice is deposited in the mail.

Handling Unclaimed Property Worth Less Than $500

Florida Statute 715.109 dictates the terms of handling abandoned property after the deadline to claim the property has passed. If the property goes unclaimed and has a value under $500 total then the landlord has the right to retain it for their own personal use or to dispose of it in any manner they choose.

Handling Unclaimed Property Worth More Than $500

If the property goes unclaimed and has a value of over $500 then the property must be posted for public sale by competitive bidding. In order to do so, a notice of the time and place of the public sale must be published and meet the following criteria:

  • The notice must be posted once a week for two weeks in a newspaper with general circulation where the sale is being held
  • If there is no newspaper where the sale is being held, the ad must be posted for 10 days in at least six “conspicuous places” in the neighborhood of the sale
  • The sale must take place at least 10 days after the first publication
  • The final publication must be at least five days before the sale
  • The notice must include a description of the goods, the name of the former tenant, and the time and place of the sale
  • The sale must be held at the nearest suitable place to where the property is being stored

Any proceeds that exceed the cost of the storage of the property and advertisement of the sale will be paid into the treasury of the county where the sale took place. The former tenant will have one year to claim those funds through the county treasurer or other designated official.

Talk to an Attorney

Ideally, Florida landlords would never have to deal with abandoned property – but some know this reality all too well. It’s important to be careful through this process to avoid liability in disposing of or selling abandoned property. The team at Bryant Taylor Law can help you navigate these legal issues and ensure the continued success of your business.

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