Abandoned Property and Florida Landlord Tenant Law

Dan PascaleBy: Daniel T. Pascale, Esq.

A commercial landlord recently questioned what her rights were with respect to property that a former tenant had left behind in a commercial rental unit.   She wanted to know what to do with the abandoned property and whether she could let other people take it out of the unit or whether the abandoned property could be simply thrown away.

According to Florida Statute Section 715.104 before taking any action a landlord must provide written notice to the former tenant and any other parties that the landlord suspects may own the property that was left behind.

The written notice needs to identify the property with specificity and advise the former tenant that they must pick up the property within 10 days (if the notice is personally delivered) or within 15 days (if the notice is sent by mail) or the property will be sold or thrown-out.

How Much is the Florida Tenant’s Abandoned Property Worth?

The landlord will also need to determine whether the property is worth $500 or more. If the property is worth less than $500, at the end of the applicable time period (10 or 15 days depending on how the notice was sent) then the landlord has three options: 1) she can claim title to the property and take possession of it; (2) she can dispose of the property, or 3) she can sell the property and keep the proceeds from the sale for herself.

However, if the property is worth $500 or more, the landlord must take an extra step.  That extra step requires the landlord to advertise that the abandoned property is for sale for at least two consecutive weeks in newspaper of general circulation.  After deducting the costs of storage, advertising, and the sale costs, any balance of the proceeds from the sale which are not claimed by the former tenant (or an owner other than such tenant) shall be paid to the treasury of the county in which the sale took place.

Can the Florida Landlord Recover Their Costs?

It is important to keep in mind that in either case, i.e. whether the property is worth less or more than $500, the landlord always has the right to recover the money spent storing the property, advertising its sale, and selling the property. When the property is stored at the premises, the cost of storage is calculated by determining the fair rental value of the space that is needed to store the property.

A brief word of caution, the Florida Landlord/Tenant Statute is strictly construed and landlords can (and do sometimes) come under fire for violating the statute, even when they are owed back rent! As a result, it is always advisable to retain an experienced real estate attorney in any landlord/tenant matters.

If you have questions and are looking for answers to legal issues in Miami-Dade or Broward County, contact Jordan Pascale, P.L. at 305-501-2836 or visit us at JordanPascale.com.