Under the Florida landlord-tenant laws, you have a right to evict your tenant. There could be a number of reasons for an eviction, including failure by the tenant to meet their rent obligation and excessive property damage.
Florida, just like other states, has an elaborate and detailed eviction process. You must follow this process for the eviction to be successful. Otherwise, the eviction will fail and you may even find yourself fighting a lawsuit.
So, in this post, we are outlining everything you need to know about the eviction process in Florida.
Basic Overview of the Eviction Process in Florida
1. Legal Reason
Do you have a legally justifiable reason to evict your Florida tenant? In order to evict a tenant, you must have a legitimate reason to begin the eviction process. You can’t simply evict your tenant because you no longer like them.
Here are some examples of legally justifiable reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Excessive property damage
- Carrying out unauthorized alternations
- Violating the terms of the lease
To make the eviction successful, there are two things you need to keep in mind.
First, you must ensure that you aren’t violating the lease yourself. That’s because the tenant can use that as defense to fight off or delay their eviction.
Florida tenants have their own rights once they sign the lease. One of these rights is the right to live in a habitable rental unit. If you fail to provide one, your tenant has the right to withhold rent. In such a case, you cannot try to evict the tenant for failure to pay rent as you necessitated that.
So, before filing the eviction lawsuit against your tenant, make sure the tenant has nothing they can use against you.
Second, for a successful eviction, ensure you send the tenant a warning letter. Let the tenant know what they have done to necessitate their removal. Use certified mail for purposes of evidence.
2. Eviction Notice
Did the tenant fix their violation after you sent them the warning letter? If not, you can go ahead and serve them an eviction notice. Various eviction types exist depending on the violation committed.
For non-payment of rent, you must serve the tenant a 3-Day Notice. The notice simply tells the tenant that they have 3 days to either pay the rent due or move out. If the tenant doesn’t pay the rent due or move out, you can continue with the eviction process.
For lease violations, such as having unauthorized pets or operating an unauthorized business, you must serve the tenant with a 7-Day Notice. This notice gives the tenant an option to either fix the violation or move out. If they don’t take either option, you can move to court to file for their eviction.
For holdover tenants, the eviction type depends on the length of the lease. For monthly agreements, you must serve a 15-day Notice to Quit. For weekly agreements, you must serve them with a 7-Day Notice to Quit. And for annual leases, you must serve the tenant with a 60-Day Notice to Quit.
3. Summons & Complaint
If the tenant doesn’t move out or fix the violation, you can move to court and file a complaint. Once you file it, the court can take up to 3 days to serve it to the tenant. In most counties, the filing fees are about $185.
Next, the Summons and Complaint will be issued to a process server to serve it to the tenant.
The tenant will then be required to provide the court with an answer within 5 days. If they don’t provide one, the court will probably rule in your favor. However, if they do, then the process may take several weeks to conclude.
In their response, the tenant may fight the eviction by putting up defenses.
Here are some common defenses used by tenants:
- You used self-help means to evict the tenant: Examples of self-help eviction methods include locking their doors or shutting off their utilities. Such actions are illegal.
- The eviction notice you served them had errors: When creating and delivering eviction notices to tenants, you must follow very specific guidelines. For example, it must clearly state the violation committed and state when the tenant must move out. If it doesn’t state either, the eviction notice will be considered defective. That said, this will only serve to delay the process since you have the option to fix the errors.
- You had no legal justification to evict the tenant: Your tenant may have several defenses to challenge their eviction for nonpayment of rent. One such defense is your failure to maintain the rental unit to standards. As a Florida landlord, you have a responsibility to comply with all Florida safety and health codes. If you fail to do so, then your tenant may have multiple options to pursue, including stopping further rent payments (Stat. Ann. § 83.64)
- You are discriminating against your tenant: Both the Florida Fair Housing Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act make it illegal for landlords to discriminate against their tenants based on their gender, religion, race, color, familial status, disability, and national origin.
4. Writ of Restitution
The Writ of Restitution is the tenant’s final notice to leave. It gives them an opportunity to remove their possessions before they can be evicted by the sheriff.
Usually, the tenant has a maximum of 24 hours to leave before the eviction can begin.
As a Florida landlord, you are allowed to evict your tenant if you have a legally justified reason. However, you must follow a specific process to ensure it is successful and to avoid lawsuits.
We hope this post was helpful and informative! If you still have further questions, contact Florida Property Management & Sales.
Disclaimer: This blog is only intended to be informational. Laws keep changing and the blog may not be up-to-date at the time you read it. If you have questions or want to suggest some edits, kindly get in touch with Florida Property Management & Sales. We’re a trusted property management company serving Broward County and the surrounding areas.