How the Residential Eviction Process Works in Florida
Florida Eviction overview
Florida wants to provide the right balance between protecting tenants and landlords. The eviction process can be rough on tenants especially if it is because they don’t have money to pay the rent instead of for personal reasons. Landlords are running a business and have the right to be paid for offering people a place to live and sleep.
For these reasons, Florida requires that landlords follow strict statutory guidelines before an eviction becomes final. Self-help methods such as changing the locks, turning off the electricity, or other forceful methods are strongly forbidden.
The Florida eviction process varies depending on whether the reason for the eviction is the non-payment of rent or for noncompliance with the terms of the lease. In both cases, the landlord may also seek civil damages in addition to the eviction.
Termination of the Lease
Both the tenant and the landlord have the right to terminate the rental lease
Florida statute 83-56 provides that tenants can terminate the lease if the landlord
- Fails to comply with the local building, housing, and health codes
- Fails to keep the property in a habitable condition
- Doesn’t take care of rats, mice, bedbugs, and other animals and insects
- Violates other provisions and requirements of the lease agreement
- Generally, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing of the reason for the violation and the intent to end the lease. The landlord has seven days to make the proper corrections.
Florida statute 83-56 also states that the landlord can end the lease if:
- The tenant fails to comply with the terms of the lease, other than nonpayment of rent
- The tenant doesn’t meet his/her obligations under the local housing, building, and health codes
- The person in the apartment or other unit fails to keep their place clean and sanitary such as removing garbage
- The tenant should properly use the appliances and utilities
- The tenant causes damage to the property
- The person or people in the property disturb the their neighbors or the peace
The statute provides different remedies depending on whether the tenant should be given time to make corrections or the tenant fails to pay the rent that is due
The landlord should give the tenant proper written notice that the rent is late and how much time the tenant must pay to keep the lease active
The timelines for notice
If the eviction is due to nonpayment of rent, then the landlords must use the statutory three (3) day process. The notice must be in writing. It must be properly given or made available to the tenant. The notice should make clear the amount that is due.
Evictions based on noncompliance require a seven-day notice process.
Generally, the weekends and holidays are not counted when considering the time requirements.
Evictions where a cure is possible require a seven day eviction notice. The notice should state the basis for the noncompliance. It should also state that the tenant has seven days to make correct until the noncompliance with result in a termination of the lease. The notice should also state that a second non-compliant act will cause the lease to terminate – with no time to correct the noncompliance. Not taking out the trash or having another person live in the apartment may qualify as noncompliance.
If a cure is not possible, the tenant must also receive a seven-day notice. Examples of this type of noncompliance include criminal acts or damages to the property
In month to month leases, the landlord must give 15 days notice.
Serving the notice
The landlord must either
- Deliver the notice to the tenant
- Leave the notice with an adult tenant at the rental unit
- Use certified mail
- Post it to the door of the unit
The filing of the summons and complaint in eviction cases
The landlord’s next step, if the tenant does not voluntarily leave, is to file a certificate of the manner of service of the notice, and a copy of the notice, with the clerk. The landlord should also fill out an eviction complaint and have a notary witness it.
Service of the complaint and summons to appear in court
The tenant must receive the summons and complaint. Tenants have five days to file a reply and serve it on the landlord.
Once there is service of the summons and complaint and the passage of five days or there is a reply within five days – the landlord can ask for a formal court hearing.
If the tenant files an answer, there will be a court hearing. If there is no answer within five days , the landlord can ask for formal possession – through a final judgment in possession.
Defenses to eviction proceedings
Some defenses tenants may assert include:
- Failure of the landlord to provide proper notice
- The tenant’s failure is based on the failure of the landlord to comply with its own requirements such as to provide a habitable place
- The tenant claim that that the eviction is based on discrimination due to race, gender, religion, sexual preference or other improper factors
Generally, the tenant must deposit any open rent claims with the court while the case proceeds
Writ of Possession
Once the landlord is given the legal right to possession, the landlord files a Writ of Possession with the Sheriff. After the sheriff services or posts the notice conspicuously, the tenant has 24 hours to leave.