Eviction Process in Florida

Navigating the Tenant Eviction Process in Florida

Reasons For Eviction

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1. Nonpayment of Rent

Nonpayment of rent is the most common reason for a landlord being forced to file an eviction. When a tenant fails to pay rent, landlords can quickly initiate eviction proceedings. The process begins with the delivery of a three-day notice, demanding payment, or possession within three days (excluding service day, weekends, and holidays). If the tenant does not pay the rent within the 3 business days’ time frame set forth in the notice, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit. Once the eviction lawsuit is filed, an uncontested eviction process typically takes an estimated 4-5 weeks, and a contested eviction takes around 5-8 weeks, in most courts around Florida.

2. Lease Violation

For breaches of lease terms, excluding non-payment, landlords must serve a seven-day notice to cure. This notice should specify the violation, what the tenant must do to cure the violation, and allow the tenant seven calendar days to rectify the issue. If non-compliance persists, the landlord can proceed with eviction, following a similar legal process as in nonpayment cases. Examples of lease violations include unauthorized occupants in the property, nuisances such as loud noise and music, not maintaining the property and lawn if the tenant is responsible for that, unauthorized modifications to the property, not allowing landlord access to the property for inspection or repairs, and health and safety violations.
If the violation is not curable, such as a criminal act like assault and battery, a landlord can serve a 7 day notice without the opportunity to cure. Once the eviction lawsuit is filed, the eviction process typically takes an estimated 4-8 weeks in Florida depending on if it’s contested or not.

3. Termination of Month-to-Month Tenancy

To terminate a month-to-month tenancy, landlords must serve a minimum 30-day notice, notifying the tenant that the tenancy is ending, and possession must be surrendered at the monthly period’s conclusion. The notice must be served at least 30 days before the monthly period ends. For example, if rent is due on the 1st of the month and the landlord is serving a termination of month-to-month tenancy notice on August 15th, the landlord should provide until September 30th for the tenant to vacate as there is only 16 days left in August and the notice must expire at the end of a monthly period. The subsequent eviction process in Florida normally takes around 4-5 weeks if it’s uncontested, and 5-8 weeks if it’s a contested eviction.

4. Holding Over After Lease Expiration

If a tenant continues to occupy the premises after the lease expires, and no renewal notice is required, landlords can proceed with eviction without a specific notice. However, if the lease demands a notice of non-renewal, landlords must adhere to the specified notice period. Landlords should check the provisions in their lease first before moving forward with a holdover eviction to ensure they are following their lease provisions closely. If the tenant has not vacated at lease end and is a holding over then an eviction lawsuit should be filed and the eviction process typically takes between 4 and 8 weeks in most courts throughout Florida.

Types of Notices

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3-Day Notice for Non-Payment of Rent with Instructions

This is the most common eviction notice in Florida and is used by landlords to demand rent. Landlords should serve their notice out and serve this notice as soon as the tenant is behind in rent. Once the notice expires the landlord can engage our Firm’s services to file for eviction. Make sure to complete this notice correctly and fill out all necessary information or this could cause delays or dismissal of the eviction process in Florida.

Termination of Month to Month Tenancy

This Florida notice is used if there is no current lease in place and the tenant in considered a month to month tenant. This notice must be served at least 30 days prior to the beginning of a new monthly rental period. By way of example, if a landlord is trying to terminate a month to month tenancy in October and rent is due on the 1st of each month, the landlord should serve the notice no later than October 1st and the vacate date on the notice should be October 31st. Once the notice has expired the landlord can utilize our services to begin the eviction process in court in Florida.

Notice of Non-Renewal of Lease

If a landlord does not intend to renew their lease with a tenant in Florida, the best practice is for the landlord to consult their lease to determine what the notice requirements are for not renewing it. Some leases have automatic renewal periods, while other leases state that the tenancy automatically transitions to a month to month tenancy upon expiration if it’s not renewed or terminated within a certain time frame. And still other leases provide no such clarity and the lease simply expires, thereby creating a holdover tenancy if additional rent is not accepted by the landlord after expiration. Therefore the best practice is to serve the tenant with a Notice of Non-Renewal of Lease prior to lease expiration. Make sure to provide the necessary time frame required under the lease, if one is provided, and if one isn’t then any time frame should suffice. Once the lease and notice expire the landlord can utilize our eviction services here in Florida.

Seven Day Notice to Cure Tenant Violations

If the tenant violates a lease agreement in Florida, such as having unauthorized pets or unauthorized guests, the landlord should serve the tenant with a Seven Day Notice to Cure. If the tenant fails to cure the violations laid forth in the notice, the landlord can choose to terminate the tenancy and file for eviction in Florida. Before filing for eviction the landlord will need to gather proof of the ongoing violations which include photographs, videos , police reports, code violation documentation, or sworn testimony from witnesses. If the landlord chooses to file an eviction in Florida after the notice expires they can engage our services to do so.

Steps In The Eviction Process

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Deliver Written Notice

The first step in the eviction process in Florida is to serve a notice to the tenant. In the case of an eviction based on nonpayment of rent, the landlord must serve a 3-day notice. Under Florida law the notice must be served on the tenant in person, by certified mail, or by posting it on the door of the rental property. A landlord must make sure that they are using the proper statutory notice as laid out in Chapter 83 of Florida Statutes, the notice must be filled out properly, the proper amount of time provided, any demand for rent must be accurate, and the Certificate of Service must be completed accurately by the person serving the notice. Any mistake on the statutory notice could cause your eviction court case to be delayed or dismissed.

File Eviction in County Court

As a part of the eviction process in Florida, once your notice has expired the next step is to file an eviction in the court of the county in which the property is located. In the example of a 3-day notice for nonpayment of rent, if the tenant does not vacate the property by the date specified in the notice or pay the rent owed, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit in the county court. The landlord must file a complaint with the court and pay the required filing and service fees. The landlord would need to utilize a local sheriff to serve the summons or hire a private process server. Process servers are often quicker in serving eviction lawsuits than the sheriffs are.

Serve Tenant with 5-Day Summons

Once the complaint is filed, the next step in the eviction process in Florida is that the court will issue a summons to the tenant. A process server will deliver the summons to the tenant via posting, personal service, or substitute service. The summons will inform the tenant of the date by which they must respond to the complaint. The landlord cannot move the eviction case forward during this 5 business day period and the tenant can either hire an attorney or file a responsive pleading with the court during this 5 day period.

Motion for Default

If the tenant does not respond to the summons within the 5 business day period, the landlord can file a motion for default with the court. This motion, which is a critical component to the eviction process in Florida, asks the county clerk to enter a clerk’s default for the tenant failing to respond to the eviction complaint and summons, and for the court to enter a judgment in favor of the landlord because the tenant has not defended themselves in the eviction case.

Submit Final Judgment

If the court grants the motion for default, the landlord will submit a proposed final judgment for eviction to the court. The final judgment will order the tenant to vacate the property and may also award the landlord damages they are owed if the landlord has filed a count for damages in their complaint. The final judgment also authorizes the clerk of court to issue a writ of possession, and for the sheriff to serve the writ of possession on the premises and evict the tenant.

Writ of Possession

Once the final judgment is entered, the final step of the eviction process in Florida is that the landlord can obtain a writ of possession from the clerk of courts for an additional fee. The fee for a writ of possession in most counties is $90. The writ of possession is a notice to the tenant issued by the clerk of court and served by the Sheriff that the tenant is now evicted and has 24 hours to vacate the property.

Sheriff's Eviction

The sheriff will serve the writ of possession on the tenant and will schedule a time with the landlord to evict the tenant from the property after the 24 hour notice has expired. A Florida sheriff will usually post a notice of eviction on the property at least 24 hours before the eviction is scheduled to take place. At this point the eviction process in Florida is complete and if the tenant leaves belongings in the premises, the landlord can move them out to the property line to be disposed of without fear of liability.

Tenant Answers? Consult an Attorney

If a tenant responds to the eviction lawsuit in Florida, the eviction then is considered contested. Several things could occur at this point. An attorney might recommend filing a motion to strike the tenant’s answer if no money is deposited into the court registry by the tenant. Alternatively, the court could order mediation, a hearing to determine rent, or a final hearing. It is possible that the landlord and tenant may have to go to court to resolve the case. There are many variations to the contested eviction process in Florida. Contested evictions can be complex and could result in an eviction case being dismissed for a variety of reasons if a landlord is not careful. A landlord who is considering filing an eviction, or who has already filed an eviction case which is contested, should consult with an attorney.

Tenant Defenses To a Florida Eviction

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1. Wrongful Eviction:

Landlords must be aware of proper termination and eviction filing procedures, or hire a competent attorney that specializes in evictions, to avoid accusations of wrongful eviction. Familiarizing yourself with legal eviction processes is crucial to prevent potential legal challenges.

2. Inadequate or Improper Notice:

Complying with Chapter 83 of Florida statutes which governs notice periods and methods of service are paramount. Insufficient or improper notice can jeopardize the eviction process and lead to delays or dismissal of an eviction case. Landlords should meticulously adhere to the specific notice requirements outlined in state law. For example, if the landlord is demanding rent they must never count the day the notice is served and should utilize business days, rather than calendar days, to calculate the 3 day notice period. Notices should also be served by either hand delivery, posting on the door, or by USPS mail.

3. Breach of Lease Agreement:

Understanding the terms and conditions of the lease agreement is fundamental. There are thousands of different types of leases that landlords use in Florida and all of them have different terms and legal requirements contained in them. A breach of these terms, whether related to a landlord’s failure to maintain the property or make proper repairs, may create the basis for a legally sound eviction defense by the tenant.

4. Retaliation:

Landlords must exercise caution to avoid actions that could be perceived as retaliatory. Retaliatory evictions, whereby a landlord is seen to be punishing a tenant who was asserting their legal rights, are prohibited under Florida law. For example, if a tenant puts in a reasonable maintenance request to the landlord or calls the municipal code authorities due to these maintenance issues, the landlord should not retaliate by terminating their tenancy and beginning the eviction process.

5. Constructive Eviction:

Maintaining habitable living conditions is essential for landlords. Neglecting property upkeep may lead to claims of constructive eviction which can lead to legal claims for damages against the landlord. Landlords should prioritize addressing issues promptly to avoid legal complications.

6. Discrimination:

Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in tenant treatment based on specific factors such as race, color, religion, sex, etc. Landlords should ensure their decisions are rooted in legitimate reasons unrelated to protected characteristics to avoid legal Fair Housing challenges.

7. Failure to Maintain Premises:

Florida landlords are obligated to maintain the premises in habitable conditions. Failure to provide essential services or address necessary repairs can lead to legal challenges. Proactive property maintenance is key to preventing such disputes.

8. Unfair Debt Collection Practices:

Landlords pursuing unpaid rent must adhere to legal debt collection processes. Failure to do so may result in legal scrutiny. Awareness of and compliance with proper procedures can prevent unnecessary legal complications.

Our Firm understands the importance of legal awareness for landlords navigating the eviction process. We are able to save landlords time and money by empowering them with the knowledge needed to navigate potential legal challenges effectively.

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