Your tenants have left…but their stuff is still around.
When is personal property considered abandoned…and what should you do about it?
When tenants move out of a rental property, it’s generally expected that they will take their belongings with them. But as any long-time landlord can tell you, this isn’t always the case.
But what do you do with all the stuff they left behind? When is personal property considered abandoned?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “finders keepers.” There are laws in Florida surrounding what landlords can do when a tenant leaves things behind. And part of being a good landlord means following the law to the letter…even when your tenant isn’t your tenant anymore.
When Is Personal Property Considered Abandoned?
Abandoned property laws don’t typically apply to anything that can be reasonably labeled as “trash.” If this is what you have on your hands, feel free to throw it away and deduct any clean up costs from their deposit.
If we’re talking about something more than a few broken lawn chairs and some old newspaper, however, you’ll want to look before you leap.
Under Florida law, there are two questions a landlord should ask when determining whether a tenant’s personal property is abandoned:
- Has their tenancy been terminated?
- Has the tenant vacated the rental property?
If the answer to both questions is yes, the item(s) can be safely considered to be abandoned. The question now becomes: “What do you do with it?”
What To Do With Abandoned Property
As much as you might want to haul all of that stuff out to the curb, you have to follow a few steps when it comes to abandoned property.
Send Written Notice
The first step is to notify the tenant (or whoever you believe the owner of the property to be) in writing describing the items left behind and where they may be picked up.
This notice must be personally delivered or sent by first class mail (postage prepaid). If delivered by hand, Florida law requires that your tenant collect their property within 10 days. If you send it via mail, your tenant must collect it within 15 days.
Keep in mind, however, that this is merely the minimum number of days allowed by the law. If the rental agreement has a clause stating that the tenant has 30 days to retrieve their things, you should abide by the rental agreement.
Store the Property
Once you have sent the written notice, you then have to store the items for the required number of days.
If you don’t have a new tenant moving in, you can leave the abandoned property where it is. If you need to empty the unit so it can be occupied, cleaned, or renovated, you may choose to store everything off site until it is either claimed or disposed of.
The law requires that you take “reasonable care in storing the property,” (i.e. don’t leave it in a pile on the lawn) but you will not be held responsible for any loss or damage unless you are negligent or cause deliberate harm.
Sell Unclaimed Property
If your tenant (or the property’s owner) claims their belongings, great. Otherwise, you can take steps to rid yourself of it.
First, estimate the total resale value of the property in your possession. If it’s value is less than $500, you may do as you wish with it–throw it away, keep it for yourself, sell it at a yard sale, etc.
If the total resale value is more than $500, it must be sold at auction. FL Statute 715.109 lists the requirements for notifying the public of the sale. Any proceeds from the sale (minus your storage and advertising costs) will be held by the county treasurer for the property owner to claim for one year.
Between abandoned property, late rent payments, maintenance requests, and tenant background checks, being a landlord can end up taking a lot more time than you expect.
Our assistance doesn’t stop at abandoned property; our full-service property management ensures that you don’t have to lift a finger to care for your business. That’s truly passive income that leaves more time for doing the things you love.
Curious to learn more? Give us a call today at (407) 359-9500 to see how we can help.