If you’re a landlord in the state of Florida, it’s important to know what the laws are in regards to eviction.
While it’s never pleasant to evict someone, unfortunately, it happens from time to time.
Read this in-depth guide to help walk you through the eviction process in Florida so you can protect your rights as a landlord and avoid potential backlash from an unhappy tenant.
Make Your Rent Due Dates Clear
To avoid any confusion, your rent due dates should be clearly stated in the lease. Just like most states, rent due in Florida is usually due on the first day of the month. This is also applicable for weekends and holidays.
If you want to establish a grace period of, say five days, add that verbiage to the lease. The grace period is at your discretion, but it should make things easier for the tenant if they need a couple of extra days to gather their rent payment.
You can also state that the rent is due on the day after a weekend or holiday if you choose. As long as your tenant is clearly aware of the due date, there will be no room for confusion.
Include information about possible late fees in the lease as well. For example, if rent is later than five days past the due date, you can charge a flat late fee.
Make it very clear that late rent payments will make the tenant possibly eligible for eviction. When you spell everything out, they’ll have a clear understanding of their expectations ahead of time.
Eviction Process in Florida: Failure to Pay Rent
If your tenant does not pay their rent on time, you have the right to give them a three-day notice for failure to pay rent. This gives the tenant three business days to pay their rent, or they may voluntarily move out of the property.
Per Florida law, weekends and holidays are not included in the three-day timeframe, so it’s best to give them notice on a Monday when possible. For example, if their rent was due on a Thursday, the three-day notice would allow them until the following Wednesday to pay.
Make sure you use the proper format for a Florida eviction. You can find the notice online and it will give you the exact template to use so you can be sure you’re within the limits of the law.
Overall, the three-day notice includes the person’s rent due amount, pertinent dates, and your contact information. The state has ruled that this three-day notice is sufficient to evict tenants, and it must be included with an eviction notice.
You can also include some extra information including a statement that says you may pursue legal action. In this case, legal action simply means you could pursue an eviction lawsuit.
It’s also a good idea to include how the notice was delivered, whether it was via certified mail or in person.
Serving the Three-Day Notice
The eviction process in Florida gives you three different options as a landlord to serve your tenant a three-day notice. First, you can personally hand the notice to your tenant, but this must be done at the actual rental property location.
Second, you may choose to mail a copy of the three-day notice by regular mail. Using registered or certified mail is highly recommended so you have proof of delivery.
Third, if you can’t get in touch with your tenant or they simply won’t answer the door, you are allowed by law to leave the notice in a visible, conspicuous place. This includes taping the notice to their front door so they can clearly see it.
These are the only three legal ways you can serve a three-day notice. If you don’t do this properly, you will need to draft a new notice and start all over again.
Understanding Tenant Options
How you go from here will mostly depend on how your tenant responds to receiving a three-day notice. If they pay their rent within the allotted three-day timeframe, you cannot continue with eviction proceedings.
It’s important to note, however, that if your tenant fails to pay their rent on time in the future, you do have a right to serve a new three-day notice. Keep in mind that payment “resets the clock” and you’ll have to change the eviction period.
If your tenant does not pay their rent but they do move out within three days, you have the right to keep their security deposit. This deposit will cover the unpaid rent.
In cases where the security deposit does not cover the unpaid rent, you have the right to sue your tenant for the remaining balance. Before you decide to go this route, you should decide if it’s worth it. Hiring an attorney is recommended so you can ensure that you are following the letter of the law.
There may be times where a tenant will not pay the full rent and won’t move out within the three-day period. If you choose, you may proceed to file a summons and a complaint with the local court. This summons will allow you to regain possessions of the property and remove the tenant.
The summons will be served by a sheriff or another legally authorized process server. Your tenant may be allowed to respond to the summons by going to court.
If the tenant is to be evicted, a Writ of Possession will be posted. Keep in mind that Florida eviction laws are quite strict, so you will need to do everything within the legal framework in order to protect yourself.
Landlord Illegal Actions
Dealing with tenants who don’t pay their rent can be extremely frustrating, however, there are some things you cannot legally do as a landlord. For example, you are not allowed to shut off utilities like water, electricity, or gas.
You also may not change the locks on the door to your property just for the sole purpose of getting your tenant to move. If you try to forcefully evict someone, the tenant may call the police or a lawyer.
If you attempt to use any of these illegal actions, Florida law states that you may have to pay your tenant’s rent for up to three full months. The amount could even be higher depending on the individual circumstance.
With that in mind, never do anything outside of your legal limits as a landlord. If your tenant sues you, you could be forced to pay their attorney’s fees on top of the rent.
Tenants Who Break the Lease Terms
Nonpayment of rent isn’t the only reason you may need to evict someone. If your tenant breaks the written rules listed on your lease, they could also be subject to eviction.
This is why it’s extremely important that you clearly spell out all of the terms and rules in the lease beforehand. This type of eviction is known as “Eviction for Cause” and it can be performed if someone clearly broke the rules as stated.
An example of breaking the terms of a lease could include being too loud, also known as excessive noise. All tenants have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property. If a tenant repeatedly creates too much noise, it can be grounds for eviction.
If your tenant has caused significant damage to your property, this may also be grounds for eviction. Pet and parking issues are other common problems that can cause tenants to break the lease terms.
In cases where you’re serving an eviction notice for breaking the terms of the lease, you must give them a 7-day written notice. This notice must include exactly what the tenant has down wrong, and it must include a clear warning letting them know they are being evicted.
In Florida, the tenant has the chance to fix the problem at least once. For example, if they repair damage to the property or remove an illegal pet, they can be given a second chance.
However, if your tenant breaks the same rules within a 12-month period, you are legally allowed to serve them another 7-day eviction notice. The second notice will not give the tenant an opportunity to correct the initial problem.
In severe cases, you are allowed to send a 7-day eviction notice without giving the tenant an opportunity to correct the issue. Consult with an attorney if you’re ever in doubt.
Court Hearing Information
If you have to take a tenant to court, you can set the hearing date after you’ve filed a formal complaint or notice of eviction. If your tenant doesn’t answer your complaint or does not pay a specified amount of money to the court, no date will be set.
A judge can and will schedule the hearing for you if you or your tenant don’t do so. You and the tenant will both be notified where and when the hearing will take place.
Everyone involved will be allowed to present their individual case before a judge. Make sure you have all documentation with you on the day of court.
Bring paperwork that has been filed, notices that have been given, and include a written testimonial to the events that have occurred. Make sure you also include specific dates and times where applicable.
If you have any photographs, such as pictures showing property damage, be sure to bring those to court as well. The judge will give you a Judgment for Possession if you win your case.
Often, tenants don’t show up for the eviction hearing. If the tenant is a no-show, you will win automatically. The judge can also order that your tenant pay the court costs and even the attorney’s fees.
Eviction in Florida
If you are legally allowed to evict your tenant and you obtain Judgment for Possession, the court will then issue the tenant a final 24-hour notice. A local sheriff will come and post the notice on the door.
After 24 hours, you are allowed to forcibly evict the tenant. You may also padlock the door. This is done either with or without the tenant’s belongings inside.
By law, the tenant has been given ample notice to vacate, so you are now within your legal rights. If you wish, you may also impose a lien on the tenant’s belongings. This lien is only allowed to be up to the amount of rent that is due.
If you are concerned that an evicted tenant may become violent or angry, contact your local police. They can escort and assist you while the tenant leaves the property.
It’s always best to change the locks on any property where you’ve evicted someone. This will add a layer of protection for yourself as well as for the next tenant who moves in.
Know Your Rights as a Landlord
While the eviction process in Florida may seem stringent, it’s designed to protect your rights as a landlord as well as the rights of the tenant. Make sure you follow all procedures carefully and exactly as the law states.
If you need assistance with an eviction and you have questions, contact a local real estate attorney who can walk you through the process. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the proper eviction of a tenant.
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