In Florida, a landlord and tenant are bound to the rental agreement that each party signed at the beginning of a tenancy. If your tenant moves out before the end of the lease, he or she has violated that lease. Before you take any action, it’s important that you are certain the property has been abandoned.
Determining that the Tenant Has Moved Out
When your tenant turns in the keys or leaves you a message letting you know that he or she has moved out, you can be sure the property is abandoned, and you can get inside. However, if you merely suspect that the tenant has moved out without notice, you need to verify it. Entry is allowed when a tenant is absent for an extended period of time, and you’re allowed to enter a property after providing 12 hours of written notice. If you think your tenant is gone, but you’re not sure, try contacting that tenant. If you hear nothing, send the required notice that you’ll be entering the property. Then, you can go in and see if the tenant has moved out.
Make Sure It’s Not Justified
There are a few reasons that tenants can legally break a lease and move out early in Florida. If your tenant claims that the property is unsafe or uninhabitable and can prove it, they can move out. If the landlord violates privacy rights, a tenant can break the lease early. And, members of the military who receive deployment or PCS orders can get out of their leases legally. However, in all these situations, you should receive notice from the tenants about their plans. If you don’t receive any notice, the lease has been broken unlawfully.
Legal Landlord Actions
When a tenant moves out unexpectedly, you can choose to do nothing. Clean up and clean out the unit and prepare it for the next tenant. You can use the security deposit you collected from the previous tenant to pay for lost rent, property damage, and any other costs associated with the early departure. If you’re in a strong market and you can place a new tenant quickly, this may be your safest, easiest, and least costly course of action. Pursuing the tenant for extra damages is possible, but the chances of collecting them are low.
If a tenant leaves behind abandoned property, you need to make an attempt to reach the tenant. Notify the tenant that you have their property and that they have a specific amount of time to collect it. They’ll be responsible for paying your storage fees if they want to come and get it. When the tenant doesn’t claim the property and it’s worth less than $500, you can sell it or keep it for your own purposes. If it’s worth over $500, you’ll need to sell it through a public auction.
Dealing with a vacant unit because a tenant has moved out without notice, before the expiration of the lease, is no fun. However, the best thing to do is to get the property ready to re-rent and move forward. Be extra diligent with your tenant screening, and find a renter who has an excellent track record of paying rent on time and following the terms of the lease.