HOW TO HANDLE TENANTS’ ABANDONED PROPERTY
– Throw it Out, Sell It, or Let the Tenant Pick it Up?
Generally, the Landlord retakes possession of the rental property because of the Sheriff having executed the Removal, or the tenant(s) voluntarily surrendered the rental property either (i) by agreeing to vacate (often via a stipulation agreement between the tenant(s) and Landlord), or (ii) voluntarily turning in the keys and giving notice of vacating the rental property to the Landlord, or (iii)otherwise abandoning the rental property such as moving out in the middle of the night and not turning in keys. The Landlord then needs to decide what to do if the tenant(s) leaves personal property in the rental property.
What can be done is based on the law regarding abandoned property as well as what is contained in the lease about personal property left by a tenant(s); however, the lease may be silent on this issue, in which case, Florida law alone controls. What should be done involves both what can be done legally, along with what the Landlord wants to do. As explained below, dealing with tenant(s)’ abandoned property takes some effort. So the Landlord needs to decide whether they want to take on such an endeavor.
For a full Instruction Sheet on dealing with tenants’ abandoned property, log in to our Help Center in the Move In/Out Forms category.
THE SHERIFF’S REMOVAL:
At the time of the Sheriff’s Removal, the Landlord has the option to either:
(i) have workers (or the Landlord can do it himself) present to remove the tenant(s)’ property to the property line
(in which case the Landlord has no liability to the tenant(s) if the tenant(s) personal property is subsequently damaged or destroyed, and since it is on the property line, the tenant(s) may take their personal property therefrom), or (ii) give the tenant(s) some time to take their property out, but the Sheriff generally will only stay for fifteen minutes unless an additional hourly fee is paid in advance (the tenant(s) should have vacated and removed their personal property before the Sheriff comes to execute the Removal), or (iii) have the tenant(s) removed by the Sheriff, and their personal property is left in the rental property. The Landlord may, after the Sheriff’s Removal, allow the removed tenant(s) to enter the rental property and retrieve personal property they may have been left therein. However, this is not advisable. If it is done, the Landlord should be present to witness the tenant(s). If the tenant(s) refuses to leave thereafter, the Sheriff or Police may be called, and since the Sheriff’s Removal was completed, and should be so indicated in official records, the Sheriff or Police should deem the removed tenant(s) a trespasser and be forcibly removed from the rental property. However, and unfortunately, the Sheriff or Police are often too quick to decide incorrectly that such a circumstance is a civil matter and you will need to perform an eviction. Thus to avoid any such possible situation, it is advisable not to allow a removed tenant(s) to return on the rental property after the Sheriff’s Removal. Also, a reading of the above exemplifies why, unless the tenant(s) vacates after providing notice to the Landlord, a Landlord should complete the eviction process all the way to the Sheriff’s Removal, even after the Landlord become aware that a tenant(s) under eviction has abandoned or vacated (unless the Landlord has actual knowledge of the tenant(s) having vacated).
TENANT(S)’ PERSONAL PROPERTY LEFT AFTER SHERIFF’S REMOVAL, TENANT(S)’ ABANDONMENT, OR TENANT(S) VOLUNTARILY VACATE THE RENTAL PROPERTY.
After either the Sheriff’s Removal, the tenant(s)’ abandonment or the tenant(s)’ having voluntarily vacated the rental property, the tenant(s) may have left personal property in the rental property. Personal property includes everything that is moveable such as clothes, furniture, jewelry, toys, appliances and electronics such as televisions and stereos.
The tenant(s) can be deemed to have abandoned their personal property when they permanently leave the rental property but leave behind the personal property.
More information on determining when an abandonment by the tenant(s) has occurred can be found in the Eviction Law Firm’s Determining When has a Tenant has Abandoned the Rental Property instruction guide.