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Failure to Return Leased Property - FS 812.155(3)

Failure to return leased property can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the value of the property. These cases hinge on the prosecutor showing a fraudulent intent. Although judges like to say that these cases should be civil, prosecutors throughout Hillsborough County are quick to file charges for the "failure to return leased property."

If you sign one of these agreements then read the contract carefully and comply with the terms. If the company promises that you can have more time to pay, make sure you get the agreement in writing. If you receive a request for the return of leased property then comply immediately. By returning the property in a timely matter, the issue remains a civil issue and should not become a criminal case. Many of these cases involve a company called Rent a Wheel, Rent a Tire, or RNR Custom Wheel and Tires with offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey.

These company PREY on individuals with poor credit. The predatory lenders take advantage of these individuals by leasing them tires, rims for their tires, furniture or appliance under outrageous terms. After the person signs the contract, the person often finds it difficult to continue to pay for the property. In many of these cases, the company will refuse to take the property back and instead demands payment for an outrageous amount.

These companies survive not because they actual lease property in a fair manner and provide an important service. Instead, these companies survive because they collect outrageous amounts of money from consumers under the threat of a criminal prosecution.

If you were arrested for the failure to return leased property or if you are being threatened with a prosecution in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, call an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We work with our clients to negotiate a fair settlement of the restitution. After the restitution issue is settled, the prosecutor is usually willing to drop the charges completely, or allow you to complete a diversion program so that the charges can be dropped. If you are not guilty of the offense or if the prosecutor can't prove it, then the only fair resolution is getting the charges dropped outright.

It is important to get the charges dropped so that you are not forced to pay even more money for court costs, costs of prosecution, costs of supervision, and all the related expenses. Call 813-250-0500 to discuss the unique facts of your case and what defenses might apply.


FS 812.155(3) Prosecutions in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL

The criminal offense of “failure to return hired or leased personal property” can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor offense. The charge is contained in Florida Statute Section 812.155(3) which provides:

"Whoever, after hiring or leasing personal property or equipment under an agreement to return the personal property to the person letting the personal property or equipment or his or her agent at the termination of the period for which it was let, shall, without the consent of the person or persons knowingly abandon or refuse to return the personal property or equipment as agreed, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree…..”

A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by either 60 days in jail or 6 months probation and/or a fine of $500. The statutory scheme also provides that if the value of the personal property or equipment is valued at $300 or more, then the person commits a felony in the third degree punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine.


The Notice Requirement of Florida Statute Section 812.155(3)

Notice if required before a prosecution under this statute can proceed. In fact, Florida Statute Section 812.155(6) provides that the notice is a prerequisite to prosecution under this section. To fulfill this requirement:

  1. the following statement must be contained (a) in the agreement under which the owner or person lawfully possessing the property or equipment has relinquished its custody; or (b) in an addendum to that agreement; and
  2. The notice statement must be initialed by the person hiring or leasing the rental property or equipment.

Florida Statute Section 812.155(5) provides that the demand for return of overdue property or equipment and for payment of amounts due may be made in the following ways:

  1. by courier service with tracking capability, addressed to the lessee’s address shown in the rental contract;
  2. by certified mail, return receipt requested, or
  3. in person, by hand delivery.

The letter will usually say:


Demand for Return of Property

Your Rental Agreement(s) with us have expired. No prior arrangements have been agreed to that would allow additional time to renew the rental period. FAILURE TO RETURN RENTAL PROPERTY OR EQUIPMENT upon expiration of the rental period and failure to pay all amounts due (including costs for damages to the property or equipment) are prima facie evidence of intent to defraud, punishable in accordance with section 812.155, Florida Statutes. Pursuant to Florida Law, section 812.155, demand is hereby made for return of property belonging to this company within 5 days of receipt of this notice. Should you fail to return said property, it is the intent of the undersigned to file a criminal complaint against you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. This constitutes a third degree felony when property value is $300 or more or a second degree misdemeanor when the property value us under $300. Please contact the undersigned to avoid action being taken. This is a serious matter that requires your immediate attention.


Evidence in Florida’s Failure to Return Leased Property Cases

The failure to return rental property or equipment upon expiration of the rental period and failure to pay all amounts due (including costs for damage to the property or equipment) are evidence of abandonment or refusal to redeliver the property.
Furthermore, Florida Statute Section 812.155(4) provides that the prosecutor can use certain types of evidence to show a fraudulent intent include:

  1. removing or attempting to remove the property or equipment from the county without the express written consent of the lessor;
  2. absconding without payment; or
  3. obtaining the property or equipment under false pretenses.

Under Florida Statute Section 812.155(4), the prosecutor can create prima facie evidence of abandonment or refusal to redeliver the property or equipment if he sends a demand for the return of the property by courier service with tracking capability or by certified mail, return receipt requested and the property is not redelivered to the owner within 5 days.

Even if the person who leased the property never received the notice and the notice is returned undelivered, the fact that the notice was mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, or delivery by courier with tracking capability to the address given by the renter at the time of rental is sufficient and equivalent to notice having been received by the renter

Additionally, under Florida Statute Section 812.155(4)(c), prima facie evidence of abandonment or refusal to redeliver the property can be proven by the “by the failure to pay any amount due which is incurred as the result of the failure to redeliver property or equipment after the rental period expires, and after the demand for return is made.”

Those amounts due can include any of the following: “unpaid rental for the time period during which the property or equipment was not returned.” Unpaid amounts also include the “lesser of the cost of repairing or replacing the property or equipment if it has been damaged.”


What if another person now has the leased property?

In many of these case, the person is unable to return the leased property because it was taken or even stolen by a third party.

The statute provides that “possession of personal property or equipment by a third party does not alleviate the lessee of his or her obligation to return the personal property or equipment according to the terms stated in the contract by which the property or equipment was leased or rented to the lessee….”

However, the statute does provide for a defense when the lessee can provide the property owner and court with documentation that “demonstrates that the personal property or equipment was obtained without the lessee’s consent.”

In many cases, that documentation would include a police report to show that the property was stolen by a third party. For instance, under Florida Statute Section 812.155(8), if a person leases a vehicle and then the vehicle is not returned at the end of the lease because it is stolen, then the requirements of the statute can be met if the person who leased the vehicle shows that the vehicle was reported stolen to a law enforcement agency and if the vehicle is listed as stolen on any local or national registry of stolen vehicles.


Additional Resources

Leasing of Rental Property Instruction Sheet - The State Attorney’s Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County has a copy of a leasing of rental property instruction sheet on its website. The instruction sheets helps individuals and businesses that wish to institute a prosecution under Florida Statute 812.155 relating to the leasing of rental property with intent to defraud or failure to redeliver leased property. In order to prosecute the case, the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa requires the following documents:

  1. The attached form signed and notarized.
  2. A legible copy of the contract.
  3. A copy of any identification that was obtained at the time that the contract was entered into.
  4. A payment history.
  5. A copy of the demand letter and the return receipt, or the unclaimed demand letter.

In fact, the State Attorney’s Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, notes on its website that Florida Statute 812.155(6) contains a notice requirement that is a prerequisite to prosecution. The website also provides instructions on how to complete the complaint form and accompanying documentation.

Tampa Police Department's Complaint Form for Failure to Return Hired Vehicle - Visit the website of the Tampa Police Department to find form entitled the "statement of complaint" for failure to return hired vehicle under F.S.S. 817.52. Find instructions for completing the form required by the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit and the Tampa Police Department. These agencies will not typically investigate or prosecute individuals for failing to return hired vehicles without compliance with these requirements. The defense attorney should also obtain these documents during the course of discovery. The instructions require the leasing company to provide copies of all applicable payment schedules, legible copies of credit card vouchers, and rental contracts. The leasing company is also required to provide a separate written history of the lessor’s attempts to retrieve property including positive and negative reactions from those contacted.  

The Tampa Police Department’s Complaint Statement form provides that “[i]f there is no date specified for redelivery, or if it is determined that the renter has given the lessee permission to keep the rented vehicle beyond the contract termination date, without a new signature on a new or revised contract, no report will be originated." The form requires information about the complainant who is the lessor or company seeking retrieval of property, the witness who is the employee who rented the property, and the contact information for the lessee or renter.


Finding a Tampa Defense Attorney for Theft Crimes Under 812.155(3)

If you were charged with the felony offense of failure to return hired or leased personal property ($300 or more) under F.S. 812.155(3) in Hillsborough County, FL, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We fight these charges aggressively to negotate a lower amount of restitution with the alleged victim.

We also fight the case to convince the prosecutor to drop charge after restitution is made which saves our client from a criminal record and the cost associated with fines, court costs, costs of prosecution, costs of investigation, and cost of probation supervision.

Call 813-250-0500 today to talk with an experienced attorney about the facts of your particular case.


This article was last updated on Thursday, May 19, 2016.