Sometimes it becomes necessary for a landlord to exercise his right of eviction. In Florida, tenant eviction can occur for various reasons. The landlord can follow Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes for help with the Florida eviction process. Trying to evict a tenant through threats, disconnecting utilities or changing locks is illegal. The Florida law gives specific guidelines to end a tenancy. There are different types of notices used depending on the situation at hand. The following are steps required to file an eviction in Florida. It provides an overview of the rules landlords must follow when evicting a renter or ending a tenancy.

1. Determine whether to proceed with the Florida process of eviction

You must have a reason/cause to evict a renter. As such, you need to determine whether a cause exists. In Florida, you can evict a tenant as a result of the following violations;

  •     Violations of the lease agreement
  •     Non-payment of rent
  •     Violations of local, state or federal laws
  •     Nuisance, etc.

2. Make sure you haven’t violated any Florida lease term

If the eviction process reaches a hearing, the tenant will also be given the opportunity to be heard. Therefore, it is prudent to make sure that you haven’t violated any of the lease terms yourself. Make sure that you:

  •     Comply with all relevant Florida safety, building, housing, and health codes
  •     Follow all the rules and regulations pertaining the Florida eviction process
  •     Maintain common areas in a habitable manner
  •     Conduct all feasible and necessary repairs

3. Notify the tenant of the eviction

If there is a reason for eviction, write the renter a letter reminding them of the terms of the lease agreement. Let them know that you have a right to evict them should they fail to comply with the lease terms. Make sure to use a certified mail service to send the letter. This way, you can present it later as evidence to support your eviction complaint.

4. Notice of Termination with Cause

As already told, you can terminate a tenancy early and evict a tenant for a variety of reasons. To proceed with the eviction process, you must give the tenant a written notice. There’re a variety of Florida eviction notices depending on the reason for termination. Choosing the right type of notice is key. Otherwise, the judge may end up dismissing the case. Here’re the types of notices:

  •     3-day Notice to pay or Quit

This 3-day notice should be served if the tenant hasn’t paid the rent. These notices must contain specific information in order to be effective. Do not include the first day of service, weekends or holidays when counting the 3-day notice period. Once the 3 days have passed, the landlord can proceed to file an eviction lawsuit.

  •     7-Day Notice

Use this notice if the tenant is not complying with the terms of the lease agreement. The notice informs the renter that he or she has seven days to come into compliance or you’ll terminate the tenancy. The Florida State statutes stipulate that you have a right to file an eviction lawsuit if the violation isn’t fixed within the 7 days.

  •     7-Day Unconditional Quit Notice

This notice permits you to terminate the tenancy at the end of seven days. Unlike the 7-Day Florida Notice aforementioned, the 7-Day Unconditional Quit Notice doesn’t give the tenant time to cure a violation. In Florida, this type of notice can be served if the tenant; – Creates unreasonable disturbances – Destroys the rental property – Repeats the same violation within one year

  •     15-Day Notice

This notice is given in Florida is for month-to-month tenancies. It must be served fifteen days before the rent is due. – For oral month to month agreement, Miami Beach has a special law requiring a 30-day notice. You can also use this notice if the landlord-tenant lease doesn’t contain a lease duration.

5. Serve the Florida Eviction Notice

In Florida, service of an eviction notice can be accomplished using various means. Some lease terms contain instructions while others don’t. The most common one involves personally handing one to the tenant. Other ways include securely posting it on the door or serving it by mail. When sending via mail, make sure it is a certified service in order to have documentation of receipt. You can present the receipt as evidence later in court. The person serving the notice must indicate the manner of service.

6. Create an eviction complaint

If the tenant hasn’t remedied the violations or hasn’t paid the rent due, Florida eviction laws allow you to file an eviction complaint. The eviction complaint notice begins to toll on the first full day following delivery of notice. Holidays and weekdays are exempt.

7. File your eviction packet with your Florida county clerk’s office

In most counties, the filing fee is $185. A completed eviction packet contains;

  •     A pre-stamped envelope addressed to all tenants/occupants
  •     Five copies of the lease agreement and notice provided to the tenant
  •     A completed eviction complaint

8.  Florida Eviction Summons and Complaint

The landlord needs to file and serve an Eviction Summons and Complaint notice. This is if the tenant fails to comply or to leave the property. A copy of the notice and certificate of service must be notarized by the court clerk. Service can be conducted by a county sheriff or by a process server. Tenants have a 5-day window to answer the eviction summons. If an answer is filed, the landlord must contact the court to schedule a hearing. Should no answer be filed, the landlord needs to file a Motion for a Default Judgement.

9. Tenant Eviction Defenses

In some cases, the renter may choose to fight the eviction. In effect, this would lengthen the amount of time the lawsuit takes. During the pendency of the case, the tenant is required to deposit the amount of rent due with the court. Failure to do so results in the automatic issue of the default judgment. The portion of the Florida landlord-tenant law relating to residential dwelling units was written, in part, to protect tenants. These defenses are available to the renter regardless of the lease term. Be it covering week to week or year to year. When the process begins a renter can assert a variety of defenses to the Florida eviction lawsuit. The following are some common tenant eviction defenses:

  •      Under Florida Statute 83.56(5), a tenant may argue the defense of “waiver” in an eviction lawsuit. Here, you waive your right to evict a renter if you accept rent. However, repeated actions by the renter may make this defense null and void.
  •     The landlord hasn’t kept up the property. To avoid making the eviction void, the landlord must comply with applicable housing regulations. These are rules and regulations that govern the condition and upkeep of the property.
    • Under Florida Statute 83.60(1)(b), it is called the “defense of a material noncompliance” and is a complete defense to an eviction attempt.
  •     “I don’t have the money to pay right now.” Sometimes, renters may give excuses that may be valid. Here, you can serve the tenant a 3-day notice to pay the rent. If the tenant doesn’t pay up after the expiration of the 3 days, you can proceed with the eviction.
  •      Improper notice by the landlord. If you fail to provide a proper eviction notice, it’ll be illegal to evict the renter. You must include all of the statutorily required information and provide a written notice.
  •     Retaliatory conduct, discriminatory and self-help. Under Florida Statues, tenants can use several other defenses to fight off an eviction. See illegal residential evictions in Florida.
  •     Material noncompliance or a case of constructive eviction. Under this defense, you cannot evict a renter if they served you a 7-day written notice specifying their intent not to pay rent.

See Tenant Defenses to Eviction Notices in Florida for more information on tenant defenses.

10.  Removal of the Renter

File a motion for default with the court if the renter answered the summons, but failed to show up at the court hearing. Alternatively, attend court on the hearing date and make sure to take all notice receipts with you. Supposing the judge sides with you, the court will order the sheriff to evict the renter within 24 hours. You must obtain a Writ of Possession from the Florida court, which you must pay for. Once the Writ is served or conspicuously posted on the property, the renter has 24 hours to vacate. If the renter leaves any personal property at the rental unit, the Florida eviction laws mandate you to notify them in writing. In Florida, the law requires that you give the tenant at least 10 days to claim the property. The 10-day period is if the notice was personally delivered to the renter. If mailed, the tenant has 15 days to claim the property. You can charge the tenant for storage of the property. The costs should be reasonable. If the tenant fails to claim the property within that time, you are at liberty to dispose of it whichever way you please.

Conclusion

Eviction is not an easy matter for both the landlord and the tenant. There’re very specific rules and regulations that have to be followed. If not well-versed with the Florida eviction laws, it’s recommended to seek the services of an experienced attorney or your Florida property management company