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Abandoned Property: Landlords Revise your Lease Agreements

As a landlord, the issue of eviction or abandonment could be an issue you have to face. A landlord could face the issue when the tenant has abandoned the property altogether by leaving for an indefinite period of time without giving notice, or a landlord could face the issue when the lease has expired or been terminated yet the tenant fails to take all of their possessions with them. What are your rights and responsibilities as a landlord?

Florida's Statute for Abandoned Property

The Lost or Abandoned Property Statute of Florida, or Statute 705.102, states anyone who finds lost or abandoned property must report the property to law enforcement. Failure to report or return the abandoned property is legally considered theft. Defenses to this include proving voluntary abandonment or that the property is valueless.

Notifying a Former Tenant of Remaining Personal Property in Florida

Residential landlords may be required to store property left behind by their tenants following the termination or expiration of the tenancy. Under Florida Statute § 715.104, the landlord must give written notice to the tenant or any person they reasonably believe to be the owner of the property. The notice must describe the property, must advise the person that reasonable costs of storage may be charged, must state where the property can be claimed, and must set out the date before which the property must be claimed.

If a landlord does not take the steps required in § 715.104, the landlord may be liable to the tenant for the replacement of the tenant’s personal property and other damages.

A landlord must conspicuously display the following language on the rental agreement to preclude the landlord’s obligations under Fla. Stat. § 715.104:

By signing this rental agreement, the tenant agrees that upon surrender, abandonment, or recovery of possession of the dwelling unit due to the death of the last remaining tenant, as provided by Chapter 83, Florida statutes, the landlord shall not be liable or responsible for storage or disposition of the tenant’s personal property.

This provision is one of many that I recommend any landlord have in their rental agreement. A rental agreement is an important real estate contract that can spell disaster if not carefully drafted.