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Florida Statutes 83.59(c) provides that when the tenant has been absent from the premises without explanation for half of a rent payment period, and the rent is delinquent, the landlord may presume abandonment.   The disposition of the tenant’s personal property is governed by Chapter 715 of Florida Statutes which provides six single spaced pages of rules (see below).  Alternatively 83.67(5) provides

If provided in the rental agreement or a written agreement separate from the rental agreement, upon surrender or abandonment by the tenant, the landlord is not required to comply with s. 715.104 and is not liable or responsible for storage or disposition of the tenant’s personal property; if provided in the rental agreement, there must be printed or clearly stamped on such rental agreement a legend in substantially the following form:

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.

In the case of SHORTER HOME SOLUTIONS, LLC,, vs. KINGDOM, ( Broward County Court  2010), 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 220a,  the tenant was on a one year lease terminating 8/31/09 and receiving housing assistance from the City of Fort Lauderdale.  The tenant stopped paying his portion of the rent in June, and in July he traveled to Mississippi without notifying the landlord.  The City of Fort Lauderdale terminated the rent assistance and did not pay August rent.   On August 20th,  the landlord declared the property abandoned at  removed the tenant’s belongings to the curb,  which is where the tenant found them upon his return.   Thereupon they filed suit against each other.   The court consolidated the cases and ruled that the landlord was not required to file an eviction as the tenant had legally abandoned the premises by failing to notify the landlord he would return,  the rent being delinquent, and the tenant being absent past the 15th of the month.   The court ruled that the landlord was thus entitled to remove the tenant’s belongings and  denied the tenant any relief for the loss of his property.  In fact,   the judge entered a money judgment against the tenant for the rent delinquency, costs, and fees.   As the tenant had posted the rent into the court registry in order to contest the case, those funds were disbursed to the landlord.

Following is Chapter 715 “Disposition of Personal Property Landlord and Tenant Act”

715.10 Disposition of Personal Property Landlord and Tenant Act; short title.—Sections 715.10-715.111 may be cited as the “Disposition of Personal Property Landlord and Tenant Act.”

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151.

715.101 Application of ss. 715.10-715.111.—

(1) Sections 715.10-715.111 apply to all tenancies to which part I or part II of chapter 83 are applicable, and to tenancies after a writ of possession has been issued pursuant to s. 723.062.

(2) Sections 715.10-715.111 provide an optional procedure for the disposition of personal property which remains on the premises after a tenancy has terminated or expired and the premises have been vacated by the tenant through eviction, surrender, abandonment, or otherwise.

(3) Sections 715.10-715.111 do not apply to property which exists for the purpose of providing utility services and is owned by a utility, whether or not such property is actually in operation to provide such utility services.

(4) If the requirements of ss. 715.10-715.111 are not satisfied, nothing in ss. 715.10-715.111 affects the rights and liabilities of the landlord, the former tenant, or any other person.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 4, ch. 2003-263.

715.102 Definitions of terms used in ss. 715.10-715.111.—As used in ss. 715.10-715.111, unless some other meaning is clearly indicated, the term:

(1) “Landlord” means any operator, keeper, lessor, or sublessor of furnished or unfurnished premises for rent, or her or his agent or successor-in-interest.

(2) “Owner” means any person other than the landlord who has any right, title, or interest in personal property.

(3) “Premises” includes any common areas associated therewith.

(4) “Reasonable belief” means the actual knowledge or belief a prudent person should have without making an investigation, including any investigation of public records; except that, when the landlord has specific information indicating that such an investigation would more probably than not reveal pertinent information and the cost of such an investigation would be reasonable in relation to the probable value of the personal property involved, the term “reasonable belief” includes the actual knowledge or belief a prudent person would have if such an investigation were made.

(5) “Tenant” includes any paying guest, lessee, or sublessee of any premises for rent, whether a dwelling unit or not.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 840, ch. 97-102.

715.103 Lost property.—Personal property which the landlord reasonably believes to have been lost shall be disposed of as otherwise provided by law. However, if the appropriate law enforcement agency or other government agency refuses to accept custody of property pursuant to chapter 705, the landlord may dispose of the property pursuant to ss. 715.10-715.111. The landlord is not liable to the owner of the property if she or he complies with this section and the other provisions of ss. 715.10-715.111.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 841, ch. 97-102.

715.104 Notification of former tenant of personal property remaining on premises after tenancy has terminated.—

(1) When personal property remains on the premises after a tenancy has terminated or expired and the premises have been vacated by the tenant, through eviction or otherwise, the landlord shall give written notice to such tenant and to any other person the landlord reasonably believes to be the owner of the property.

(2) The notice shall describe the property in a manner reasonably adequate to permit the owner of the property to identify it. The notice may describe all or a portion of the property, but the limitation of liability provided by s. 715.11 does not protect the landlord from any liability arising from the disposition of property not described in the notice, except that a trunk, valise, box, or other container which is locked, fastened, or tied in a manner which deters immediate access to its contents may be described as such without describing its contents. The notice shall advise the person to be notified that reasonable costs of storage may be charged before the property is returned, and the notice shall state where the property may be claimed and the date before which the claim must be made. The date specified in the notice shall be a date not fewer than 10 days after the notice is personally delivered or, if mailed, not fewer than 15 days after the notice is deposited in the mail.

(3) The notice shall be personally delivered or sent by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the person to be notified at her or his last known address and, if there is reason to believe that the notice sent to that address will not be received by that person, also delivered or sent to such other address, if any, known to the landlord where such person may reasonably be expected to receive the notice.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 842, ch. 97-102.

715.105 Form of notice concerning abandoned property to former tenant.—

(1) A notice to the former tenant which is in substantially the following form satisfies the requirements of s. 715.104:

Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property

To:   (Name of former tenant)

(Address of former tenant)

When you vacated the premises at   (address of premises, including room or apartment number, if any)  , the following personal property remained:   (insert description of personal property)  .

You may claim this property at   (address where property may be claimed)  .

Unless you pay the reasonable costs of storage and advertising, if any, for all the above-described property and take possession of the property which you claim, not later than   (insert date not fewer than 10 days after notice is personally delivered or, if mailed, not fewer than 15 days after notice is deposited in the mail)  , this property may be disposed of pursuant to s. 715.109.

(Insert here the statement required by subsection (2))

Dated:        (Signature of landlord)

(Type or print name of landlord)

(Telephone number)

(Address)

(2) The notice set forth in subsection (1) shall also contain one of the following statements:

(a) “If you fail to reclaim the property, it will be sold at a public sale after notice of the sale has been given by publication. You have the right to bid on the property at this sale. After the property is sold and the costs of storage, advertising, and sale are deducted, the remaining money will be paid over to the county. You may claim the remaining money at any time within 1 year after the county receives the money.”

(b) “Because this property is believed to be worth less than $500, it may be kept, sold, or destroyed without further notice if you fail to reclaim it within the time indicated above.”

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 3, ch. 2001-179.

715.106 Form of notice concerning abandoned property to owner other than former tenant.—

(1) A notice which is in substantially the following form given to a person who is not the former tenant and whom the landlord reasonably believes to be the owner of any of the abandoned personal property satisfies the requirements of s. 715.104:

Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property

To:   (Name)

(Address)

When   (name of former tenant)   vacated the premises at   (address of premises, including room or apartment number, if any)  , the following personal property remained:   (insert description of personal property)  .

If you own any of this property, you may claim it at   (address where property may be claimed)  . Unless you pay the reasonable costs of storage and advertising, if any, and take possession of the property to which you are entitled, not later than   (insert date not fewer than 10 days after notice is personally delivered or, if mailed, not fewer than 15 days after notice is deposited in the mail)  , this property may be disposed of pursuant to s. 715.109.

(Insert here the statement required by subsection (2))

Dated:        (Signature of landlord)

(Type or print name of landlord)

(Telephone number)

(Address)

(2) The notice set forth in subsection (1) shall also contain one of the following statements:

(a) “If you fail to reclaim the property, it will be sold at a public sale after notice of the sale has been given by publication. You have the right to bid on the property at this sale. After the property is sold and the costs of storage, advertising, and sale are deducted, the remaining money will be paid over to the county. You may claim the remaining money at any time within 1 year after the county receives the money.”

(b) “Because this property is believed to be worth less than $500, it may be kept, sold, or destroyed without further notice if you fail to reclaim it within the time indicated above.”

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 4, ch. 2001-179.

715.107 Storage of abandoned property.—The personal property described in the notice either shall be left on the vacated premises or be stored by the landlord in a place of safekeeping until the landlord either releases the property pursuant to s. 715.108 or disposes of the property pursuant to s. 715.109. The landlord shall exercise reasonable care in storing the property, but she or he is not liable to the tenant or any other owner for any loss unless caused by the landlord’s deliberate or negligent act.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 843, ch. 97-102.

715.108 Release of personal property.—

(1) The personal property described in the notice shall be released by the landlord to the former tenant or, at the landlord’s option, to any person reasonably believed by the landlord to be its owner, if such tenant or other person pays the reasonable costs of storage and advertising and takes possession of the property not later than the date specified in the notice for taking possession.

(2) Where personal property is not released pursuant to subsection (1) and the notice has stated that the personal property will be sold at a public sale, the landlord shall release the personal property to the former tenant if she or he claims it prior to the time it is sold and pays the reasonable costs of storage, advertising, and sale incurred prior to the time the property is withdrawn from sale.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 844, ch. 97-102.

715.109 Sale or disposition of abandoned property.—

(1) If the personal property described in the notice is not released pursuant to s. 715.108, it shall be sold at public sale by competitive bidding. However, if the landlord reasonably believes that the total resale value of the property not released is less than $500, she or he may retain such property for her or his own use or dispose of it in any manner she or he chooses. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the landlord or tenant from bidding on the property at the public sale. The successful bidder’s title is subject to ownership rights, liens, and security interests which have priority by law.

(2) Notice of the time and place of the public sale shall be given by an advertisement of the sale published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation where the sale is to be held. The sale must be held at the nearest suitable place to that where the personal property is held or stored. The advertisement must include a description of the goods, the name of the former tenant, and the time and place of the sale. The sale must take place at least 10 days after the first publication. If there is no newspaper of general circulation where the sale is to be held, the advertisement must be posted at least 10 days before the sale in not less than six conspicuous places in the neighborhood of the proposed sale. The last publication shall be at least 5 days before the sale is to be held. Notice of sale may be published before the last of the dates specified for taking possession of the property in any notice given pursuant to s. 715.104.

(3) The notice of the sale shall describe the property to be sold in a manner reasonably adequate to permit the owner of the property to identify it. The notice may describe all or a portion of the property, but the limitation of liability provided by s. 715.11 does not protect the landlord from any liability arising from the disposition of property not described in the notice, except that a trunk, valise, box, or other container which is locked, fastened, or tied in a manner which deters immediate access to its contents may be described as such without describing its contents.

(4) After deduction of the costs of storage, advertising, and sale, any balance of the proceeds of the sale which is not claimed by the former tenant or an owner other than such tenant shall be paid into the treasury of the county in which the sale took place not later than 30 days after the date of sale. The former tenant or other owner or other person having interest in the funds may claim the balance within 1 year from the date of payment to the county by making application to the county treasurer or other official designated by the county. If the county pays the balance or any part thereof to a claimant, neither the county nor any officer or employee thereof is liable to any other claimant as to the amount paid.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 845, ch. 97-102; s. 5, ch. 2001-179.

715.11 Nonliability of landlord after disposition of property.—

(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 715.101, after the landlord releases to the former tenant property which remains on the premises after a tenancy is terminated, the landlord is not liable with respect to that property to any person.

(2) After the landlord releases property pursuant to s. 715.108 to a person who is not the former tenant and who is reasonably believed by the landlord to be the owner of the property, the landlord is not liable with respect to that property to:

(a) Any person to whom notice was given pursuant to s. 715.104; or

(b) Any person to whom notice was not given pursuant to s. 715.104 unless such person proves that, prior to releasing the property, the landlord believed or reasonably should have believed that such person had an interest in the property and also that the landlord knew or should have known upon reasonable investigation the address of such person.

(3) Where property is disposed of pursuant to s. 715.109, the landlord is not liable with respect to that property to:

(a) Any person to whom notice was given pursuant to s. 715.104; or

(b) Any person to whom notice was not given pursuant to s. 715.104 unless such person proves that, prior to disposing of the property pursuant to s. 715.109, the landlord believed or reasonably should have believed that such person had an interest in the property and also that the landlord knew or should have known upon reasonable investigation the address of such person.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151.

715.111 Assessing costs of storage.—

(1) Costs of storage for which payment may be required under ss. 715.10-715.111 shall be assessed in the following manner:

(a) When a former tenant claims property pursuant to s. 715.108, she or he may be required to pay the reasonable costs of storage for all the personal property remaining on the premises at the termination of the tenancy, which costs are unpaid at the time the claim is made.

(b) When an owner other than the former tenant claims property pursuant to s. 715.108, she or he may be required to pay the reasonable costs of storage for only the property in which she or he claims an interest.

(2) In determining the costs to be assessed under subsection (1), the landlord may not charge more than one person for the same costs.

(3) If the landlord stores the personal property on the premises, the costs of storage shall be the fair rental value of the space reasonably required for such storage for the term of the storage.

History.—s. 11, ch. 83-151; s. 846, ch. 97-102.

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