When landlords and homeowners are forced to evict problem tenants, the issues often don’t end when the tenant vacates the property. Some Florida landlords deal with leftover damage, cleaning, and, in some cases, leftover personal property.
This becomes an issue because not only will time and effort be wasted taking care of items left behind – the landlord must also know the proper Florida statutes that apply to the abandoned items before proceeding with their disposal or sale. Landlords should protect themselves by looking to the law before handling the property.
Notification to the former tenant
Florida Statute 715.04 specifically provides the guidelines for landlords to provide notice to the former tenant of any abandoned personal items. Before any items can be disposed of or sold, the former tenant must be contacted and given the opportunity to claim the items. Written notice can be given to the former tenant or anyone reasonably believed to be the property owner.
The notice must be mailed to the last known address for the former tenant or owner of the items – but if there is reason to believe the mail won’t be received by the rightful owner at this address then any other known addresses should also be sent notice.
Florida law requires that the notice includes:
- An adequate description of the abandoned property that allows the owner to identify it
- An advisement that the person claiming the items may be required to cover costs for storage and advertisement
- The location where the property can be claimed
- The date before which the claim must be made to prevent the disposal, retention, or sale of the items
The date cannot be fewer than 10 days after the notice is personally delivered or not fewer than 15 days after the notice was sent in the mail. If the total resale value of the items is assumed to be more than $500 then a public sale will be required which must be written in the notice, as well.
Items worth less than $500
Before we get to the public sale, the landlord has options when the property goes unclaimed and has an assumed total resale value of less than $500. In this case, Florida Statute 715.109 provides landlords with the option to dispose of the property by any means or to retain the property for their personal use and benefit.
Notice of public sale
Items totaling more than $500 in resale value that go unclaimed by the original tenant or owner must be sold at a public sale in Florida. The landlord must provide proper notice to the public of the sale by advertising the description of the goods, the time and place of the sale, and the name of the former tenant.
The notice must be advertised in a newspaper with general circulation where the sale is to be held. If there is no such newspaper then the advertisement must be posted in at least six “conspicuous places” in the neighborhood of the proposed sale.
A public sale of unclaimed property cannot take place until at least 10 days after the first advertisement for the sale. The original owner still has the right to reclaim the property at any time before the sale.
Proceeds from the sale
Unfortunately, all of the landlord’s time cannot be recouped. Instead, Florida Statue 715.109(4) states that the landlord is only owed the costs of storing, advertising, and selling the property. All proceeds above this amount will be paid to the treasury of the county in which the sale took place within 30 days of the sale. The former tenant or other owner has one year from the date of the payment to the county to claim the funds.
Landlords are put in a tough position when abandoned property of high value is left behind by former tenants. This creates not only legal responsibility for the landlord but also certain liabilities that could cost landlords even more time and money at no fault of their own. If you’re dealing with abandoned property, it’s best to contact an attorney right away and make sure you’re not exposing yourself to unnecessary liability. Contact the Law Offices of Ray Garcia and let us take care of your situation so you can move on with peace of mind.
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