How To Evict Someone in Florida

8 Crucial Steps in Evicting a Tenant in Florida

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1. Identify Reasons for Eviction

Is the eviction based on non-payment of rent, lease violations, property damage, nuisance behavior, or holding over after the lease expired?

The most common reason for filing an eviction in Florida is that a tenant is not paying their rent. However this is not always the case. Another common reason to evict a tenant in Florida is due to a tenant violating the terms of their lease. This could include situations such as unauthorized occupants or unauthorized pets are in the property, the tenant is violating Association rules, the landlord is denied access to the property, or any number of other lease or statutory violations.

Another common reason to evict in Florida is that a landlord simply wants possession of their property back and they want to terminate a tenancy. In this scenario a landlord usually doesn’t renew a tenant’s lease, or chooses to terminate a tenant’s month to month tenancy (i.e. a tenancy at will), and the tenant refuses to leave after being served a proper notice to vacate. This is called holding over and is a valid legal reason to file an eviction in Florida.

2. Serve Notice to Vacate

Depending on the reason for the eviction, different types of notices are required in Florida.
For non-payment of rent, a 3-day notice to pay or vacate is required.
For lease or statutory violations a 7-day notice to cure would be required. To terminate a month to month tenancy in Florida a 30-day notice of termination would apply. And to not renew a Florida lease a landlord would first need to review the terms of their lease to see what type of notice is required under their lease provisions.

A landlord should utilize statutory notices that includes the required format and language as prescribed in Chapter 83 of Florida Statutes. You can download these notices here: Forms – Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach FL | Kelley & Grant, PA.
( For all types of evictions a landlord should consult with a Florida eviction lawyer to ensure the correct notice is utilized.

Florida law requires notices to be served with one of three methods: Hand delivery to tenant, posting in a conspicuous place on the property (i.e. the door), or by mail. Sending a notice by text, email, courier or other method are not considered legal methods of service in Florida. A landlord should always keep a copy of the notice that they served as it will be required to be attached to the eviction complaint filed with the court.

3. File Eviction Complaint and Summons

If the tenant doesn’t vacate after the notice to vacate or notice to pay period has expired, a landlord would need to file an eviction complaint with the county court. If a landlord is utilizing an attorney to file the eviction, the lawyer would draft the complaint and attach the notice, the lease if there is one, and any other necessary evidence to the eviction complaint.

Once the complaint is filed electronically with the court, the clerk of court will electronically issue a summons to be served on the tenant. This summons is sent to a process server who will make up to two attempts, at least six hours apart, to serve the tenant at the rented premises. If the process server is unable to make contact with the tenant or another person 15 years or older residing in the premises, then the process server can post the summons and complaint on the door and the tenant is considered served. Once the tenant is served they will then have five business days to respond to the eviction lawsuit.

4. Motion for Default If Case Is Uncontested

If the tenant does not respond to the eviction lawsuit within the statutory five day time frame to do so, the landlord can win the case by default. In this scenario, the attorney for the landlord would file a Motion for Clerk’s Default and wait several days for the clerk of court to issue a clerk’s default on the court docket. The attorney would then submit proposed final judgments to the court for the judge to sign.

5. Attend Court Or Mediation If Case Is Contested

If the tenant answers the complaint by filing a responsive pleading with the court the case is then considered contested.

Tenants can file any number of defenses to contest an eviction case. A tenant might plead for more time from the Judge and highlight some life challenges they are experiencing such as money problems or health issues, however these are not legally sufficient defenses. Another type of defense is an allegation that the landlord has filed false allegations and that the tenant has paid the back due rent and should not be evicted. Proof of payment is normally required by a Judge, but sometimes just the allegation of payment might cause the judge to set a case for hearing. In addition a tenant may allege retaliation on the part of the landlord due to the tenant reporting maintenance issues to the landlord or to local municipal code authorities. Finally, a tenant may allege that the notice or complaint was drafted and/or served improperly which could create a technical legal issue that must be cured by the landlord if the defense is valid.

In a contested case in Florida the judge could take a few different actions. Often a judge might simply order unpaid rent into the court registry without the need for any type of court hearing. Other times a judge may order a mediation or hearing.
In a court ordered mediation the parties are brought before a mediator to see if they can work out a agreement that satisfies both parties, and the mediator facilitates this dialogue between the parties. If an agreement is reached then it is drafted up into a court ordered stipulation agreement and the terms are enforceable by the court with a default to issue against the tenant if they breach those terms. Oftentimes in mediations landlords are able to get a repayment plan worked out with a tenant, or a move-out date, or both.

Judges can also set contested cases for hearing as well to gather testimony and evidence from both the landlord and the tenant. After these hearings a Judge might order back due rent into the court registry, or possibly enter a final judgment in favor of the landlord if the eviction was brought forth correctly and the tenant doesn’t have any valid defenses.

If a landlord is utilizing an attorney for their eviction, the attorney may be able to avoid the need for a mediation or hearing altogether by filing a motion to strike the tenant’s pleading.

6. Obtain Writ of Possession

Once the court signs a final judgment for eviction, the landlord will be entitled to obtain a writ of possession. The writ of possession is a legal document that provides a tenant a minimum of 24 hours to vacate from the date it is served and authorizes the sheriff to remove the tenant from the property.

In order to get a writ of possession issued after a final judgment a landlord will need to submit to the clerk of court a Sheriff Information Sheet that has the contact information for the landlord, as well as payment for the writ. Writs are typically $90 in most counties in Florida.

7. Schedule Sheriff's Removal

After the Writ of Possession is issued, the Sheriff will serve the 24 hour notice on the tenant’s door and after the 24 hour notice expires the Sheriff will contact the landlord to schedule a date for the Sheriff to meet the landlord at the property and secure the premises so that the landlord may retake possession.

8. Secure and Clean the Property

After the tenant has been removed through a writ of possession, a landlord may change the locks, assess any damages for the purposes of a security deposit claim or return, and clean the property for a new occupant. The landlord may also legally remove any of the tenant’s belongings left behind out to the property line for trash disposal.

In conclusion, it is critical that you know how to evict someone in Florida before you initiate any legal proceedings. You may want to consider getting an attorney to assist you with the process to save you time, headaches, and money.

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