Tenant From Hell Left But Didn't Leave Keys

14 Replies

A Florida tenant has been one of those nightmare tenants. I acquired the unit with them in it, but I asked them to move right away, and they asked if they could stay one more month, this went on for 8 months. I needed to do repairs, as the unit was not in good condition when I acquired it.  They ended up calling code enforcement to complain about repairs. I told code enforcement that I've been trying to get them to leave for 8 months. I had offered them $500 to move out by the end of Sept, and then offered them 1/2 of that amount ($250) to move out a week later, but they missed both deadlines. They threatened me that if I didn't pay them the money upfront, before they fully moved out, they would pay the rent money to an escrow account at the courthouse. That never happened by the way. I told them that they could read the offer, which was in writing, that they would get cash when they were done if they moved out by Sept 30th. I verbally told them that I would pay half that if they were out a week later, but they missed that deadline too. Code enforcement was fine, they understood the dilemma. At the end of last week they moved out but did not provide me with a key to the apartment. They are also not answering their phone. Now they are texting me that they have a couple items left in the apartment. Last week they had me drive 20 min to the apartment to meet them there to get the keys, and then they didn't show up and sent me a text as I arrived that they weren't going to go there that day, with no further information. When I asked the next day when would they give me the key, and even offered to come get it from them, or meet them somewhere more convenient. they said they had a couple things in there and would let me know. That was a few days ago.  They don't answer their phone now. They verbally gave me a bogus forwarding address. When I texted it back to them, using St in the address, all they text back was WAY; I can only assume they meant it was not a street but it was a Way, but they didn't type in a whole forwarding address. I looked up the address every which way and its a completely non existent address. I called the utility company to confirm that they had taken the electricity account out of their name, they did turn off the electricity. I then put the electricity in my name before the utility company went out and physically turn it off at the meter, to save on the turn on transfer cost. I'll need power right away to do the repairs.  I was advised by someone in the business to go ahead and drill the locks, leave a note on the window of the apartment, from the inside facing out, stating that maintenance was required, the apartment had to be accessed and secured, the locks have been changed, and letting them know that if they left anything behind that they need to call the landlord.  Does that seem reasonable?  I don't want them claiming I threw their stuff out, and then have a judgement against me. I haven't been in the apt yet,  so I don't know what they left behind, but I'm planning to drill the locks today or tomorrow. Thank you all for any insight, advice, etc!!! 

@Jon S. I don't know the tenant laws there but it seems prudent to determine at what point the property is in your possession and proceed from there. Once you are sure it's yours and not theirs then break in and change the locks. This is the problem with not doing an eviction or some other legal procedure to remove the tenants ( end a M2M) lease. There is no clear possession date here. If worse comes to worse you may still need to evict to establish a possession date. You may want to consult an attorney to see if you have legal right to enter the apartment. Doing so before you have possession may get you deeper in the hole as you have said. A PM could help you here and probably would have been cheaper than what this has cost so far. (15 days of missed rent dealing with these people). RR

They're out. Any stuff left in the apartment belongs to you. Drill out and replace the locks with a cordless drill. Leave all their stuff on the corner and send them a phone message saying, "Your Stuff Out On Corner. Come and Get It." Hang up on them if they call. If the stuff is still there after a week, put a sign on it that says "Free Stuff." Put an alarm system in the house that calls you if someone kicks the front door in.

The power is in your name now. Turn it on again, or buy a generator to work on repairs.

Consider all the money you're spending on security as basic investment for the professional landlord dealing with rough trade tenants in C and D-class rentals. At least you don't need a Kevlar vest and a firearm yet. Do you have a short-barreled 12-gauge self-defense shotgun for your home? These people sometimes get drunk or high and do stupid things.

OK, fine...that's a bit much. But if you go on in this life, you're going to run into a lot of people who have trouble telling the difference between kindness and weakness. Know the law and follow it. Don't allow tenants to threaten or blackmail you. It is better to be feared than loved.

Drill the locks, and do what you have to do. Look up how long you have to store people's things in Florida. Follow that law.  My instinct tells me they gave you wrong info deliberately, and left those few items behind to just be a little more of a thorn in your butt, for old times' sake. You didn't know you would be dealing with psycho exes in this biz, huh?

Here it is for you (relevant Florida statutes):

Florida Statutes Section 715.104
1. When personal property remains on the premises after a tenancy has terminated or expired and the remises 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. Therefore, if the tenant left personal property and you estimate the total value to be less than $500.00, send
Notice of Right To Reclaim Abandoned Property - Value less than $500.00".

Florida Statutes Section 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.

So the the last known address is the property you bought. i would send a notice to the address they gave you and the property you bought with 15 days to pick up.change locks before you do anything and consider a security camera.

Were you not given a key at the time of purchase?

If you have in writing/text/voice mail that they personally have vacated the premises, then you have possession. Anything they may have left is considered trash. But you need something from them stating "we have moved out". It sounds like they know the laws and are avoiding saying we moved out and saying they still have "stuff" there, which means technically they still occupy the unit. You may be able to use the fact that they turned off utilities, but that may not automatically imply them moving out. This is a tough one.

I have a document that I make tenants sign saying I agree that "I will completely vacate the premises on such and such date in exchange for $X.XX. The landlord will have full possession of the unit on (date after the vacate date) I also agree to remove all personal property from the premises. Any items remaining in the property on (the date after the vacate date) shall be considered trash"

This is sufficient for Chicago because the tenant has indicated in writing the last date they occupy the property.

You have acquired the unit, change the lock and call it a life

I think you should start the eviction process, @Jon S. If they are avoiding using the term "We have moved out" and they are not giving you the keys, you need to get legal possession. If they are professional tenants, you need them out legally so they leave you alone.

They didn't turn off the electricity, you did. I don't think you have been given legal possession yet. This would be a great time to call an attorney.

Mindy Jensen, Real Estate Agent in CO (#FA100049656)
Hi Mindy, I agree and thank you for the advice. I think they are acting like professional tenants. Just to clarify, however, they turned off the electricity, not I. After they turned it off, I put it into my name. They specifically left medical equipment in the apartment, which raises a red flag for me. From what I've read, if it's worth over $500, I have to send notice, do a published auction, etc. I am probably going to call an attorney.

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

I think you should start the eviction process, @Jon S. If they are avoiding using the term "We have moved out" and they are not giving you the keys, you need to get legal possession. If they are professional tenants, you need them out legally so they leave you alone.

They didn't turn off the electricity, you did. I don't think you have been given legal possession yet. This would be a great time to call an attorney.

Unfortunately, in Florida, it is more complicated than that. I have changed the locks, but the possessions worth over $500 must be handled in a very specific, complicated (nauseating) and somewhat costly manner. 

Originally posted by @Rick M. :

You have acquired the unit, change the lock and call it a life

I can't be sure but it seems as though they might be doing all of this deliberately.  I'm going to follow the law to the letter, for sure. But wow, they sure are being PIA s about moving out. I'm going to add new clauses to future leases that protect me against this type of move out behavior, and indicate what will be done with their left over belongings, etc. PIA!!!!!  

Originally posted by @Terry Miller :

Drill the locks, and do what you have to do. Look up how long you have to store people's things in Florida. Follow that law.  My instinct tells me they gave you wrong info deliberately, and left those few items behind to just be a little more of a thorn in your butt, for old times' sake. You didn't know you would be dealing with psycho exes in this biz, huh?

I am not fully informed on the tenant laws in Florida, but you may have to keep their possessions in a storage locker for a certain amount of time. I would store their items while you look up the specifics on abandoned tenant items. I believe in most states you are required to keep the items in storage for a certain amount of time ,and if the tenants don't come to claim the items after a certain period of time you can dispose of them.

Drill the locks,, i wasn't sure how to do it myself and Youtubed it.. and did a lock last night,, so if a Girl can do it you can..it took me about 20 min using small to large drill bits.. in and done and locks changed..

As far as notifying tenant,, just put note on entry door saying locks changed see owner.. 

Send security deposit notice out to the address they just left within your state deadline and it will either get forwarded or returned back to you,, keep it don't open it, put will all the rest of their paperwork on file.. You have a text from them saying they moved out so I'd take a copy of that and print it out from your phone and put in their file.

Download your state landlord tenant laws and if they owe you money make sure it's out in that security deposit recap in timely manner,, and if you later choose to take to small claims court to collect you could try.

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