GROUNDS FOR EVICTION IN FLORIDA: EVICTION UNDER THE MORATORIUM AND THE CARES ACT
Updated: Jul 5, 2020
These are common grounds in Florida for eviction and some of the prohibitions involved in the process of eviction. This article has been updated in light of the eviction moratorium and The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), which extends the length of the eviction moratorium and notice requirements for “Covered Dwellings.” The Act also imposes additional filing requirements for both Covered and Non-Covered residential actions for possession based on nonpayment of rent.
Either way, these are difficult times that are forcing us to make difficult decisions. If a landlord does decide to evict, the landlord needs to determine whether they just want to evict or also sue for unpaid rent or other damages. The tenant, on the other hand, needs to decide whether they have legitimate grounds to fight the eviction or should just focus on either reaching a compromise or figure out a how to catch up with rent or a viable backup plan.
FAILURE TO PAY RENT
In Florida, the most common ground for eviction is unpaid rent. The rental agreement usually sets out the terms of how much, when, and in what manner a tenant must pay rent. Failure to abide by these terms may be grounds for an eviction. However, if pursuant to Florida Statute 83.60, the tenant withholds all or part of the rent due to the landlord’s failure to maintain the premises, the tenant may have reason to withhold rent as long as the reason is valid and the tenant follows the proper procedure.
Before a landlord can file for eviction for nonpayment, the landlord must provide the tenant with a three-day notice, giving the tenant an opportunity to pay the accrued rent. If the landlord fails to give proper notice according to the statutory requirements, the court may find that the notice is defective. Again, following the statutory requirements and proper procedure is key.
VIOLATION OF THE RENTAL AGREEMENT
If a tenant violates a condition of the rental agreement, it may give the landlord grounds to evict. A rental agreement is a contract in which a Landlord can include conditions as to what a tenant can or cannot do on the premises. For example, a no-pets provision. The landlord, however, also needs to abide by the material terms of the agreement, or else it may provide the tenant with a claim or a defense to an action for eviction. This also applies to violations of certain statutory duties that cannot be waived in the rental agreement, such as a landlord’s duty to maintain the premises in a habitable condition.
WHAT A LANDLORD CANNOT DO
Tenants facing eviction are afforded certain rights, the violation of which may provide a tenant a defense against an action for eviction. If a tenant decides to fight against an eviction, the tenant should do so based upon solid legal grounds to avoid wasting money on an attorney and possibly having to pay the landlord’s court costs and legal fees. In Florida, the following are some of the legal grounds upon which a tenant may challenge an eviction.
Under Florida Statute 83.67, a landlord seeking to evict a tenant cannot use “self-help procedures” to remove a tenant from the premises. For example, a landlord cannot force the tenant to leave; cannot disconnect the tenant’s utilities, such as the tenant’s water or electric; change the tenant’s locks; make threats; or either seize or displace the tenant’s property. Otherwise, the tenant might sue the landlord for damages or may have a valid defense to an eviction. This is a non-exhaustive list, for example, excluding a prohibition on retaliation, but ultimately the interests of all those involved are best served by following the proper rules and procedures.
THE CARES ACT
On March 27, 2020, the congress passed the CARES Act. Section 4024(b) of the Act prohibits landlords of “Covered Dwellings” from initiating an eviction action or charging fees, penalties, or other charges against a tenant for the nonpayment of rent. These protections extend for a period of 120 days after the Act’s enactment. In other words, for Covered Dwellings, the Act not only extends the moratorium, but also bars landlords from even issuing an eviction notice until after the period ends. Further, the notice required for a Covered Dwelling for nonpayment of rent is not three but rather thirty days.
Moreover, Administrative Order 20-10 of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Florida, requires all Plaintiffs in residential eviction actions for the nonpayment of rent or other fees or charges, to file a declaration under penalty of perjury verifying whether or not the property they are seeking to recover possession of (1) has a Federally backed mortgage loan, (2) a Federally backed multi-family loan, or is otherwise considered a “Covered Dwelling” under section 4024 of the CARES Act.
In terms of what is considered a “Covered Dwelling” under the CARES Act, it is generally any property that participates in a Federal assistance program, has a Federally backed mortgage loan, or a Federally backed multi-family loan.
Depending on the grounds for the eviction, the statutory requirements for the type of notice that must be provided to the tenant varies. As mentioned, the Cares Act imposes entirely different notice requirements for Covered Dwellings. What is clear, is that if you are unable to negotiate compromise, you should comply with all of the contractual, statutory, and procedural requirements. Not doing so could waste a significant amount of time and money, or even get your case dismissed.
*Current as of July 1, 2020.
Michael N. Bress, Esq. is managing attorney at BRESS LAW FIRM, PLLC, a Landlord-Tenant, Estate Planning, and Family Law firm located in Aventura, Florida, but serving clients throughout Miami-Dade County. You can contact Michael at (954) 336-8049, by email at Michael@BressLaw.Com, Or go to the Bress Law Firm website at BressLaw.Com.
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