Evicting a tenant can be a tough process. When the court rules in your favor, the problematic tenant will finally be forced to move out of your property. However, there’s a possibility that the evicted tenant might leave some personal possessions on the premises. Unfortunately, this is another problem that you need to take care of.
If the evicted tenant has left some belongings behind, the landlords have a legal responsibility to ensure that the tenant will have an opportunity to retrieve them. As a landlord in Florida, you should understand the legal rules and regulations when it comes to handling tenants’ possessions. Knowing the law can help you stay in compliance and avoid getting into trouble.
If you encounter a situation where evicted tenants left their personal belongings behind, these tips can help you decide how to go about it:
The exact reason for eviction can help you decide what to do with tenants’ possessions that were left behind. Keep in mind that every state has varied sets of rules when it comes to handling tenants’ personal belongings. Some states require landlords to return the left-behind belongings to their owners, while others don’t.
Usually, the sheriff or law officers who handled the eviction can help you with tenants’ property removal. They can also help determine what belongings you can and cannot sell to cover any unpaid rent. What you can do with a tenant’s belongings will depend on the reason for eviction, as each court order will have a different mandate based on the eviction situation.
In Florida, landlords must abide by the law for handling a tenant’s abandoned possessions. It is the landlord’s responsibility to notify the tenants that they left behind some personal items that they may want to retrieve. Landlords must also clearly inform the tenants of their intent to dispose of these properties should the former tenants fail to claim them.
When giving tenants a chance to retrieve their possessions, make sure to follow these steps:
Under Florida law, landlords are required to send a notice to the tenant or the owner of the left-behind items. Each notice should include the following:
● A list of the items that were left behind
● A detailed description of each of the abandoned items
● The place (exact address) where the former tenant can claim the items
● A reasonable timeframe for claiming the abandoned items
● A clear statement requiring the former tenant to pay reasonable storage costs before claiming the items
● A clear notice that if the possessions are not claimed within the given timeframe, the landlord has the right to dispose of them as the landlord sees fit
Landlords may deliver the notice to the former tenant either in person or through certified mail. If the notice is hand-delivered, the tenant has at least 10 days to retrieve their abandoned belongings. If the notice is delivered by mail, tenants can claim the items within at least 15 days.
In Florida, if tenants failed to claim their left-behind belongings, landlords should sell these abandoned possessions at a public auction if they are worth $500 or more. Landlords are required to post notice of the auction in a local newspaper at least once per week for two weeks before the schedule of the auction.
In case a local newspaper is not available, landlords must advertise the sale (for at least 10 days before the sale) in at least six conspicuous places in the area of the proposed auction. The tenant may still claim their belongings until before the auction is done. However, aside from the storage fees, tenants should also pay for the costs of advertising and preparing for the auction.
If the tenants do not claim their belongings, you may proceed with the auction sale. You can then use the proceeds from the sale to pay for the storage fee and other costs. Within 30 days of the 30, any money left from the proceeds after deducting all related costs must be given to the treasury of the county where the sale took place. The tenant may claim the money from the county within one year.
If the abandoned belongings are worth less than $500, landlords are not mandated to sell them in an auction. Landlords can choose to either dispose of these items through any legal means or keep them for personal use.
Before getting rid of any personal items left behind by tenants, make sure to check any provisions in the lease regarding abandoned belongings. Your rental agreement cannot lawfully shorten the amount of notice you are required to give to the tenant (ten days when delivered by hand, or 15 days when delivered by mail).
However, the terms of the lease can increase the legal timeframe for tenants to retrieve their belongings. For instance, your lease can allow tenants to claim their abandoned possessions within 30 days, instead of 10 or 15 days.
When an evicted tenant left their personal stuff after the eviction, you are not allowed to get rid of them by any means you think fit. It’s important to know your state’s rules on storage and other legal means for disposal to avoid violating the law. If you are not sure how to go about this, it’s best to work with a property management company that is well-versed in the law.
For questions, contact Innovative Property Solutions.