The eviction process in Florida can be confusing because a landlord must follow the statutory procedure governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes. There are many stages to the eviction process in Florida. These stages in part depend on the grounds for eviction, the response of the tenant, and how the lawsuit proceeds in general. Failure to follow the proper statutory procedure could lead to an eviction suit being dismissed, and the court may grant the prevailing party their court costs and attorney’s fees.
Keep in mind, the following steps and procedures are only a general overview. Each case is different and may require different notices, steps, legal documentation, or responses to various legal issues and developments. You should consult an attorney before taking legal action in order to protect your legal rights and personal interests.
In the following, we will discuss the overarching steps of the eviction process, from the notice stage to the removal of the tenant.
Common grounds to terminate a tenancy, which is required before you can file an eviction, are when a tenant fails to pay rent, violates the rental agreement, or violates local, state, or federal law. Other grounds include the absence or expiration of a rental agreement.
The first step in the eviction process in Florida is the landlord must deliver to the tenant a termination notice that complies with the rules and procedures set forth in Chapter 83. The specific procedure will be dictated by the type of eviction, such as residential or commercial eviction, and the landlord’s grounds for eviction.
The amount of notice required depends on the grounds for terminating the tenancy. Termination can be for cause (for non-payment or non-compliance) or without cause (when there’s no lease agreement or the agreement has expired).
TERMINATION WITH CAUSE
For unpaid rent, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to either pay their unpaid rent or vacate the unit. If the tenant pays the full amount within three days, minus weekends and holidays, the landlord must accept the payment.
For a violation of the rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant a seven-day notice to either fix the violation or vacate the unit. If the tenant fixes or cures the violation within seven days, the landlord must not pursue the eviction.
For non-curable and repeat violations, a landlord must provide the tenant with a seven-day notice. Unconditional-quit notices are for non-curable violations such as a serious destruction of property, or, generally, a serious violation that has reoccurred within a twelve-month period. These notices do not give the tenant an opportunity to cure. The tenancy is terminated, and the tenant has seven days to vacate the property. If the tenant does not leave, the landlord can file a complaint for eviction.
TERMINATION WITHOUT CAUSE
If there is no written lease or the length of the tenancy is not specified, the landlord can terminate the tenancy at will. In such cases, notice is not required. Not unless a local statute or a written lease of unspecified duration states otherwise. Notifying the tenant, however, is recommended as a courtesy and also it might help to avoid additional damage to the property.
For week-to-week lease, notice must be given seven days before rent is due. For a month-to-month lease, notice must be given fifteen days before rent is due. See Fla. Stat. § 83.57. Miami, however, has a special law that requires a thirty-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy without a specific duration.
FILING AN EVICTION LAWSUIT
If a tenant does not comply with a valid notice that followed the statutory procedure within the time provided or before you file an eviction complaint, the next step in the eviction process is to file an eviction complaint in the county where the property is located. Once an eviction suit is filed, you must get a summons issued by the clerk of court for each defendant, and then have a professional process server or the Sheriff’s office serve the defendant with both the summons and the complaint.
Once served, the tenant will have five days, excluding weekends and holidays, to answer the complaint. The five-day timeline is for unpaid rent. Eviction suits based on other grounds for eviction may have different timelines. If the tenant answers, the tenant may offer defenses. If the tenant does not respond to the complaint, the action will usually be considered uncontested. You should then submit motions for default to the clerk of court and then the court, along with the required affidavits and legal documents.
If the eviction lawsuit is contested, depending on the tenant’s answer to the complaint and the nature of the legal issues involved, the court may schedule a hearing or hearings in order resolve the outstanding legal issues and determine any motions submitted by the parties.
A hearing can be scheduled by either party. Once scheduled, the other party must be served notice. If the case is contested, both the landlord and the tenant, or their counsel, will be given an opportunity to provide evidence to the court. At a hearing for dismissal or a final judgment, the court will decide whether the tenant should be evicted based on the pleadings, testimony, evidence, and legal arguments of the parties.
REMOVING THE TENANT
If the court finds in the landlord’s favor, the plaintiff, or their counsel, must motion the court for a writ of possession and, if granted, get the writ issued by the clerk of court. See Fla. Stat. § 83.241. A writ of possession commands the Sheriff to put the landlord back into possession. Once the Sheriff has received and then served the tenant with the writ, the tenant will have 24 hours to vacate the property. That is, minus weekends and holidays. If the tenant does not vacate, the Sheriff will return to force the tenant out and return possession to the landlord.
Often, the best solution to a problem is to avoid the problem in the first place. This is why a landlord needs to be diligent in selecting tenants and to draft rental agreements that reduce the potential for litigation. If a dispute does arise, however, an alternative to litigation is to try to resolve the dispute through negotiation.
The above is not a complete or necessary list of the steps or requirements in the eviction process. Each case is fact specific. Also, certain statutory rules can be modified by the parties in the rental agreement. Moreover, different categories of tenants may have different protections. Steps in the legal process often depends on a variety of considerations.
If you are uncertain about your rights, remedies, how the particular facts of your case might apply, or have other doubts about the eviction process, such as how to file and prosecute your case, in order to protect your rights and interests you should consult an eviction attorney.
Last Updated: May 13, 2023.
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