Tenant Defenses in an Eviction Case
When faced with eviction, many tenants believe that landlords hold all of the legal power and that they have few options other than to move out. However, a lease agreement sets out rights for both the landlord and the tenant, and Florida laws also have requirements for a valid eviction. Tenants should realize that they do not have to simply accept an eviction and that they have the opportunity to present legal defenses. An experienced West Palm Beach landlord-tenant law attorney can identify any relevant defenses in your case.
Tenant Defenses Against Eviction
A landlord is required to make certain claims to show that an eviction is legally justified. Claims can include nonpayment of rent or violation of important provisions of the lease agreement. A tenant then has the opportunity to present defenses against those claims, which can include the following:
- The alleged basis of the eviction is unjustified — This defense can take several forms. For example, the eviction may not be legally justified because you paid all of the past due rent that you owed under the lease. Additionally, if you have not paid rent, you can justify your nonpayment by demonstrating that the landlord failed to properly maintain the premises. If you notify your landlord of a major defect in the property and they do not fix it for seven days, you are justified in stopping rent payments. Finally, you can defend against an eviction by demonstrating that you did not violate the lease or that you have adequately made adjustments to be in accordance with the lease terms.
- The landlord used prohibited eviction methods — Florida law requires that a landlord file a valid claim and obtain permission to evict a tenant from the courts. Landlords are prohibited from using any type of “self-help” eviction methods, including turning off water or utilities, changing the locks, or removing the door.
- There were procedural defects in the eviction — If your landlord failed to properly give you notice of the eviction claim or provide you with essential information regarding their allegations, the case may be dismissed. In this situation, your landlord will have the opportunity to re-initiate the eviction correctly, though this defense can buy you some time.
- The eviction is based on prohibited reasons — You landlord is not allowed to evict you based on unlawful discrimination or retaliation under the Florida or federal Fair Housing Acts.
Consult With An Experienced Landlord-Tenant Attorney for Help Today
Whether you are a commercial or residential tenant, you should never be wrongfully evicted. If you are facing an eviction, you should consult with an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer who understands Florida eviction laws and who can identify whether you have any valid defenses or counterclaims in your case. At the West Palm Beach law firm of Pike & Lustig, LLP, our experienced business litigation team can represent your rights and interests, so please call today at 561-291-8298 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.