Pawn shops offer Floridians an opportunity to exchange goods for cash or buy gently-used valuables at an affordable price. In this difficult economic environment, pawn shops have become increasingly popular.
Pawn shops are required to obtain a license with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services each year. In addition, they must abide by state laws, which are in place to safeguard consumers when dealing with pawn shops as well as businesses that abide by the law.
When dealing with a pawn shop, it's important to keep the legal requirements and your rights in mind. Consumers attempting to pawn goods, or exchange personal property for a cash advance, must present a government issued photo ID and be at least 18 years of age. Pawnbrokers, or businesses that store the personal property until the consumer redeems the merchandise, must complete a pawnbroker transaction form and provide a copy to the pledgor or seller.
The form must include:
- an indication of whether the item is being purchased or pawned,
- a statement that the pledgor or seller of the item represents that the item is not stolen,
- the right thumbprint of the pledgor or seller and his or her signature, and
- a complete and accurate description of the pledged or purchased goods.
If the item is being pawned, the form must also show:
- the maturity date, which must be 30 days after the date of the pawn,
- the annual percentage rate of the loan,
- the amount of money financed,
- the finance charge that must be paid to redeem the pledged goods on the maturity date, which must not exceed 25 percent of the amount financed for each 30-day period.
A complete list of the requirements for the pawnbroker transaction form can be found at s.539.001(8), F.S.
According to the Florida Pawnbroking Act, the pawnbroker in a pawn or purchase transaction must securely store and maintain all goods for 30 calendar days. If the pledged goods were pawned and not redeemed, they must be held for an additional 30 days. While ownership is officially forfeited to the pawnbroker on the next business day after this 60-day period, the amount of time to redeem pawned goods can be extended upon mutual agreement of the parties.
Unfortunately, this means that if an item is pawned immediately after being stolen, it may be as many as 60 days before it is placed on the floor for resale. Law enforcement officers can inspect all pledged or purchased goods during this 60-day period, but theft victims may have little success unless the pawnbroker offers to show newly pawned items. Consumers who believe their stolen property has been sold or pledged to a pawnbroker do have recourse.
The Florida Pawnbroking Act gives explicit instructions on how to regain possession of stolen property. A claimant must notify the pawnbroker by certified mail, return receipt requested or in person evidenced by signed receipt, of the claimant's claim to the goods. The notice must contain a complete and accurate description of the goods and must be accompanied by a copy of a law enforcement agency's report on the misappropriation of the property. If the claimant and the pawnbroker do not resolve the matter within 10 days, the claimant may petition the court to order the return of the property. The pawnbroker must hold the property described in the petition until the right to possession is resolved by the parties or by the courts. The court and the sheriff must waive any fees for the petition to recover the property. For complete information on this process, see s.539.001(15), F.S.
Pawnbrokers are required to maintain a net worth of at least $50,000 or file security in the form of a surety bond, letter of credit or certificate of deposit in the amount of $10,000. This security can be used in any event where a consumer is injured due to fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract, financial failure or any violation of the Florida Pawnbroking Act by the pawnbroker. Consumers who believe they were treated unfairly may file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Remember…we're here to help!
For additional information or to file a complaint, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services online or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within Florida, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or (850) 410-3800 from outside of Florida.