Evicting a Tenant for Unpaid Rent
Tenants who do not pay rent can be extremely difficult to deal with. While a landlord may want to simply throw a non-paying tenant out, they do not have the legal right to do so. Instead, there are strict landlord-tenant laws in Florida with which landlords must comply to avoid legal liability and penalties.
A landlord should always be aware of unlawful eviction actions to ensure that they are complying with Florida laws. For example, a landlord is prohibited from doing the following upon non-payment of rent by a tenant:
- Changing the locks on the tenant’s door to prohibit entry;
- Removing the door from the unit to deter the tenant from staying there;
- Removing appliances from the unit to make it difficult to live there;
- Turning off or intercept water, electricity, or other utilities to drive the tenant out;
- Removing the tenant’s belongings from the unit; and
- Any other action that constitutes “self-help” eviction.
Proper Eviction Procedures
Evictions must be done through the civil court system and there are specific procedures and timelines that must be followed for an eviction to be lawful and valid. The following are some of the steps of the process of evicting a tenant for not paying rent:
- Provide notice to the tenant of rent owed and/or your intention of terminating the lease agreement.
- If the notice does not cause the tenant to pay rent owed, you must file a complaint with the court.
- Notice of the complaint and a summons must be served on the tenant in the proper manner.
- If the tenant does not pay you or respond to the court within five day of being served, you can request a court order for an eviction.
- If the tenant answers the complaint to dispute the eviction and amount of unpaid rent, you must attend a hearing for the court to decide whether eviction is appropriate. You will need to provide evidence of unpaid rent and the tenant has the chance to refute your claims or to show evidence that withholding of rent was legally justified.
- If the judge orders an eviction, the tenant has 24 hours to leave the premises. If the tenant still refuses to leave, the sheriff can then remove the tenant and their belongings.
The process of eviction is very specific with many requirements, so it is always wise to have an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer navigating the eviction process for you.
Contact a West Palm Beach Landlord-Tenant Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case
As a landlord, you have the right to collect rent for allowing others to use the property that you own. For this reason, landlords who have tenants who are unable or refuse to pay rent should consider initiating the process of eviction as soon as possible. The experienced West Palm Beach landlord-tenant lawyers of Pike & Lustig, LLP are dedicated to helping property owners evict tenants who do not pay rent in a timely and efficient manner. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 561-855-7585.