When a tenant moves out of your rental unit, he might leave some of his belongings behind. However, before disposing these possessions, it’s a good idea to decide which of them have value.
Perishable foods, bottles, newspapers and such items can be disposed. Though, if you find furnishings, family memorabilia, electronics and medications, you shouldn’t throw them away. The procedures on how to handle a former tenant’s possessions varies between states. In this article, we will focus on Florida’s laws.
If your property is left vacant, there are things you must do. Here are a few:
- Find out if the tenant intends on returning
- Send the former tenant a notice
- Decide how to dispose the abandoned property
Before making any permanent decisions, you should review the terms and conditions in the lease. You may also contact a lawyer for extra assistance. They can help you understand the laws and protect you from any potential lawsuits.
Handling an Abandoned Property
1. Determine if the Tenant Abandoned the Property
Did the tenant move out unexpectedly, or was the tenancy terminated or expired?
If the tenant moved out before or after his lease expired, then you could conclude that he abandoned his belongings. This means you can decide how to dispose them.
If there are other reasons for the tenant move-out, you must notify him regarding his abandoned possessions.
2. Notify the Tenant
Before anything, you must list all the belongings that the tenant has left behind. If the belongings are safe, you can keep them in the property. Alternatively, you can rent a temporary storage room.
After that, it’s crucial that you send a notice to the tenant explaining where his items are being kept. If any of the possessions belong to someone other than the tenant, you must send them a notice, too.
Each notice should include:
- A full description of the abandoned items
- The location of the abandoned items – where can the tenant claim them?
- A time frame – until when can the former tenant claim his items?
- A statement that the tenant will be responsible for the storage fees
- A statement about how the items will be dealt with if unclaimed
To deliver the notice, you have two options:
- You can hand it to the former tenant in person – with this option, the tenant has 10 days to return to the property and claim his items
- You can send the notice through the mail – if sent via mail, the tenant is given 15 days to return to the property and retrieve his possessions
A reminder should be given to the tenant that if he doesn’t pay the storage changes, he will not be able to claim his possessions.
Disposal of a Tenant’s Possessions
Sometimes, the tenant doesn’t return to claim his belongings. In this case, you need to assess the value of the item.
If an item has a value of at least $500, you must sell it in a public auction. As a property owner, you are required to advertise this auction at least once a week, for two weeks, in the local paper.
If your neighborhood doesn’t have a local newspaper, you must post the advertisements in six visible locations in your area. This must be done at least ten days before the auction day. Not only does the tenant have to cover the storage costs, but he must also cover the costs for advertising and auction preparation.
After the auction, any leftover cash should be given to the treasury of the county where the sale occurred. The tenant has a year to claim the money from the county if he so chooses.
On the other hand, if you find a belonging that has a value of less than $500, you are not obliged to sell it in an auction. You can opt to keep it for yourself, or you can legally disregard it.
Review the Terms and Conditions of your Lease
Before discarding the tenant’s possessions, carefully review the lease. Note that your lease can’t shorten the notice period given to the tenant. The notice period is between 10 and 15 days. That said, the terms of the lease agreement can extend the time period provided by the State law. For instance, your lease may state that you must give the tenant a 30-day notice to claim any items before disposing them.
Educate yourself about how to handle abandoned belongings in a Florida property. The more knowledge you have, the more protected you will be.
Also, be sure to respect your former tenant’s possessions. Even if a tenant has been evicted, they still have the right to claim their possessions. Therefore, as a property owner, you should know how to write a proper notice and understand the State laws. Immediate disposal of a past tenant’s property can lead to problems. So, it’s important to understand the process.
If you wish to feel more protected, you should contact a lawyer. For further inquiries, you can contact TrustHome Properties.