THE EVICTION PROCESS IN FLORIDA: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
Updated: Feb 22, 2020
By Michael N. Bress, Esq.
An eviction is when a landlord forces a tenant to move out. To evict a tenant in Florida, a landlord must follow the procedure governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes. Failure to follow the proper procedure could lead to an eviction suit beindismissed, or result in the tenant being awarded fees and costs or even damages.
Common grounds to terminate a tenancy 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 following are the main steps required to evict a tenant in Florida.
(1) TENANT NOTICE
The first step in the eviction process is the landlord must give the tenant a termination notice. 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).
(B) TERMINATION FOR CAUSE
FOR UNPAID RENT, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to either pay the 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. If the tenant offers the landlord less than the full amount, the landlord must reject the payment or will have waved the right to pursue the eviction until a further breach occurs. If the agreement has an anti-waver clause, providing the landlord can accept partial payment and still pursue the eviction, the clause may be upheld by the court.
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 a 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.
(C) TERMINATION WITHOUT CAUSE
IF THERE IS NOT A WRITTEN LEASE OR A LEASE WITHOUT A SPECIFIED PERIOD OF TENANCY, 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 A 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. Miami, however, has a special law that requires a thirty-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy without a specific duration.
FILE THE EVICTION COMPLAINT
If a tenant does not comply with the notice, 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, the Clerk of Court must issue a summons for each defendant, and then a professional process server or the Sheriff’s office must serve the tenant with both the summons and the complaint.
TENANT HAS FIVE DAYS TO RESPOND TO THE COMPLAINT
Once served, the tenant will have five days, excluding weekends and holidays, to answer the complaint. If the tenant answers, the tenant may offer defenses. If the action is for unpaid rent, in order to contest the eviction the tenant will have to deposit the rent owed into the court registry. If the tenant does not respond to the complaint, the action will be uncontested and the landlord should file a motion for default judgment and schedule a hearing.
A hearing can be scheduled by either the landlord or the tenant. Once scheduled, the other party must be served notice. If the case is contested, both the landlord and the tenant will be given an opportunity to testify and to provide evidence to the court. At the hearing, the court will decide whether the tenant should be evicted based on the pleadings, testimony, and other evidence.
REMOVAL OF THE TENANT
If the court finds in the landlord’s favor, the Clerk of Court shall issue a writ of possession commanding the Sheriff to put the landlord back into possession. Once the Sheriff has served the tenant with the writ, the tenant will have 24 hours, minus weekends and holidays, to vacate the property. If the tenant does not vacate, the Sheriff will return to force the tenant out of possession.
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 screening prospective tenants for potential red flags, 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 mediation. Either way, if you hire an attorney, you should discuss what in your situation is likely to be the cost-effective approach.
Michael N. Bress, Esq. is managing attorney at BRESS LAW FIRM, PLLC, a Family Law and Landlord-Tenant Law firm located in Aventura, Florida, serving clients throughout Miami-Dade and Broward. 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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