Evictions Under Florida Law
No landlord wants to initiate eviction processes against one of their residential tenants, but there are times when it is an unfortunate necessity. In these instances, it is important to understand the Florida law surrounding evictions. This law prescribes specific safeguards that landlords must adhere to with regard to evictions. Failure to take notice of these limitations can result in the landlord being forced to pay damages to the tenant for their actions. In addition to the specifics of the eviction process, landlords should also understand some common defenses to eviction in order to ensure that they do not get caught flat-footed after trying to get someone off of their property.
The Eviction Process
The eviction process normally begins in one of two ways. Either the tenant fails to pay their rent on time, or the tenant violates some portion of the lease agreement. The rules for eviction vary slightly depending on which of these events triggers the eviction. For non-payment, the landlord must provide a written demand for payment, and then give the tenant three business days from that written demand to make their payment before terminating the rental agreement. The Florida statute also includes an example script of what would constitute sufficient notice.
If the process relates to a violation of the lease agreement, then the tenant’s time limit extends to seven days. Importantly, for some forms of non-compliance, the tenant may either fix the violation or leave within that seven-day period, but for others there is no option to fix it. Examples of violations that the tenant does not need to be given the opportunity to cure include misuse or damage the the property of the landlord or other tenants.
If the tenant does not vacate the property within the specified time limits, then the dispute will usually move to court. The landlord may file a complaint, which the tenant then responds to. The entire process is expedited as compared to a normal court case out of respect for the fact that the landlord is damaged by having the property in dispute.
If a landlord is looking to evict a tenant, it is important for them to know what defenses a tenant may bring, so that they do not end up wasting their time fruitlessly trying to evict someone. One of the most important defenses that landlords should be aware of is the defense that the landlord engaged in self-help. Self-help occurs when a landlord undertakes illegal methods in an attempt to force the tenant to leave. For example, Florida law forbids blocking access to the apartment or interrupting utility services to force someone to leave. Tenants also have a variety of other defenses to eviction that landlords should be aware of, such as arguing that the landlord’s notice of eviction was incomplete in some way, or arguing that the landlord did not properly maintain the premises.
Evictions are delicate processes with laws in place laying out how they with great specificity. If you are involved in a dispute with one of your tenants, contact a West Palm Beach landlord attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today.