Being a landlord in Florida certainly comes with its benefits but problem tenants can make you wish you never rented your property in the first place. Many landlords try to handle their own eviction cases and are successful. However, when landlords handle their cases on their own they often progress slower and do not recover all of the damages they are entitled to.
Hiring an attorney to help you with your eviction case will streamline the process and in many cases make it so that you never have to go to court. There are three general steps to evicting a problem tenant, each of which are discussed below.
The information on this page generally applies to residential properties. Our firm also represents commercial property landlords and tenants as well.
Step 1: 3-Day or 7-Day Notice
The first step in removing your tenant for either non-payment of rent (most common) or for material non-compliance requires serving them with a notice letter giving them an opportunity to cure the problem. If your tenant complies with the notice letter then you will not be able to move forward with evicting them.
Landlords are required to give a 3-Day notice to tenants who are behind on their rent pursuant to Fla. Stat. 83.56. The 3-Day Notice must specify the date on which payment must be received and how much is owed. The final date for payment is calculated by counting three business days beginning on the day after service, and excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. The day after the final day specified in the 3-Day Notice for payment is the first day the landlord may file a Complaint for Eviction. A 3 Day Notice must also specify where payment is to be made to the landlord. If payment is to be made to the landlord by mail, the 3 Day Notice must add 5 days for mailing to the calculation by adding 5 business days after the last day for payment, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. If a landlord accepts partial payment after serving a 3-Day Notice, the previously served notice is void and must be replaced with a new 3-Day Notice specifying the new amount past due.
If your tenant is current with their rent but is in material violation of their lease for some other reason, Landlords are required to give their tenant a 7-Day notice pursuant to Fla. Stat. 83.56 under certain circumstances. A few common examples of material violations where the landlord is required to give notice are:
- Activities in contravention of the lease or this part such as having or permitting unauthorized pets, guests, or vehicles;
- Parking in an unauthorized manner or permitting such parking; or failing to keep the premises clean and sanitary;
- Illegal drug use in the property (this may also be reported to the police).
If the tenant commits any of the above violations again within a 12 month period the Landlord may evict them without giving the tenant an opportunity to cure the violation. Generally Landlords are only required to give tenants one chance to reform their non-compliance before evicting them.
There are other situations where a Landlord is not required to give their tenant an opportunity to cure the violation prior to evicting them. Examples of behavior that warrants eviction without an opportunity to cure the violation are:
- Destruction, damage, or misuse of the landlord’s or other tenants’ property by intentional act;
- A subsequent or continued unreasonable disturbance.
Step 2: Filing Suit
The second stop in evicting your tenant if they do not voluntarily vacate the property is to file a lawsuit for their eviction. You can include a claim for damages in this lawsuit as well or wait until later to sue them for damages. The eviction portion of the lawsuit is entitled to summary procedure, which means that shorter time frames are used for responses by the tenant than are usually given in civil cases.
Unless the tenant cures the breach of the lease by paying the past due rent into the court a landlord will likely get a default against them which will result in a writ of possession being entered by the Clerk of the Court.
Step 3: Returning Possession to the Landlord
Once the Clerk of the Court signs the writ of possession they will forward it to the Sheriff’s office who will serve the writ at the property. There is a fee that the Landlord will be required to pay to the Sheriff to serve the writ.
Once the writ if posted the tenant has 24 hours to vacate the property. After 24 hours have expired the Sheriff will contact the Landlord to coordinate returning possession back to the Landlord. The Landlord will typically accompany the Sheriff our to the property with a locksmith and change the locks. Note: the Landlord has a lien on any personal property left in the property by the tenant pursuant to Fla. Stat. 713.691 to pay for damages owed to the Landlord by the tenant.