What to Do With a Tenant's Possessions After an Eviction?

There are times when landlords to deal with bad tenants. Situations with difficult tenants can even lead to an eviction. When the tenants move out of the property, sometimes, they leave their personal possessions behind.

This is another problem that a landlord needs to face and fix to get the property rent-ready for a new resident. If the evicted tenants leave some personal belongings on the property, landlords have a legal responsibility to ensure that the tenants have a fair chance to retrieve them.

It’s essential to understand the rules and regulations under Florida law regarding how to handle tenants’ possessions that are left in the rental unit after eviction. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines. To avoid this, it’s important to know what to do when tenants leave behind their belongings.

Here are the things that you should keep in mind when dealing with tenants’ possessions after an eviction:

1. Determine Why They Were Evicted

It’s important to determine the exact reason for their eviction. Your responsibilities will vary depending on the reasons for eviction and the individual circumstances of the tenants.

It’s also worth noting that each state has different laws regarding how to deal with a tenant’s left-behind possessions. Some states hold the landlords responsible for returning these belongings to the former tenants, while other states do not require landlords to do the same.

legal document that says notice to quit to evict a tenant

The law officers who handled the eviction process should help handle the removal of the belongings. The same officers should also decide what possessions should be sold to help cover any unpaid rent and other bills owed by the evicted tenants.

2. Give Tenants an Opportunity to Retrieve Their Belongings

Landlords in Florida are mandated to stay in compliance with the law when it comes to handling a tenant’s abandoned things after an eviction.

Landlords have the responsibility to let the tenants know that they left behind personal belongings and ask them to retrieve them. It’s also the landlords’ responsibility to inform the tenants that the items will be disposed of if they’re not claimed.

In Florida, the first thing that you should do when you give tenants an opportunity to retrieve their abandoned belongings is to create an inventory of the things that were left in your rental home.

It’s crucial to list every item that you find and not leave anything unaccounted for. Then, you should store these things in a safe and secure place. As a landlord, you may charge the tenant reasonable fees to cover the costs of storage.

You should then notify the tenants that they have some possessions left in the rental unit. Describe these abandoned belongings in detail so tenants can identify them and decide if they should retrieve them or not.

If some of the items belong to someone else other than the evicted tenant, make sure to also send a copy of the notice to the owner of said belongings.

person putting an envelope with a US stamp into a mailbox

Florida law mandates landlords to send a notice to the evicted tenant and/or the owner of the abandoned belongings. The notice should include the following information:

  • A detailed list of the things that were left on the property, with a clear description of each item
  • The exact address where they can claim the properties, as well as the reasonable timeframe for claiming their abandoned belongings
  • The number of storage costs and a statement that requires tenants to settle the costs before claiming the abandoned items
  • A clear statement that the landlord has the right to dispose of the items in case the tenants failed to claim them in the given timeframe

Florida landlords may deliver the notice either in person or through certified mail. If the landlord chose to deliver the notice in person, the tenant should be given at least 10 days to retrieve their abandoned things. For notices that are delivered by mail, tenants are given 15 days to claim their abandoned items.

3. Dispose of the Tenants’ Belongings

If, after the retrieval period has passed, they still fail to collect their personal belongings, landlords may dispose of these items. As a landlord, you are required to dispose of the items in the following ways:

Public Auction

You are required to sell the abandoned things at a public auction if the items are worth $500 or more. Make sure to post notice of the auction in a local newspaper at least once a week for two weeks before the auction schedule.

Boxes of belongings in a storage room

Landlords also have the option to advertise the sale for at least 10 days before the schedule in at least six conspicuous places within the vicinity of the proposed auction. It’s important to note that the tenant may still claim their things before the auction is completed.

If tenants choose to claim their things, they also need to pay for the costs of advertising and preparing for the auction, as well as the storage fees. Florida landlords may proceed with the auction if tenants fail to claim their things and use the money from the sale to pay for the storage fee and other costs of preparing for the auction.

The landlord must return any money left from the sale after deducting all related costs to the treasury of the county within 30 days. The tenant is then given one year to claim the money from the county.

Any Legal Means

On the other hand, if the abandoned properties are worth less than $500, landlords are not required to sell these things through an auction. Landlords can sell these items, keep them for personal use, or dispose of them using any legal means.

Bottom Line

You must follow the proper procedure when handling a tenant belonging after they’ve moved out. If you would like help handling these situations or managing your rentals partner with a trusted property management company like Gifford Properties & Management LLC.

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