Learn more about how to legally and respectfully evict a tenant in the Sunshine State
In Florida, landlords and property owners have the right to evict tenants for a number of reasons. If you find yourself needing to evict a tenant, it’s important you do it legally and for the right reasons.
What is an eviction?
Eviction occurs when a tenant must move out of the rental unit at the order of their landlord. The reasons for eviction may vary, but the property owner or landlord has the right to evict a tenant.
What actions can landlords evict tenants for?
There are several actions that landlords can evict tenants for in the state of Florida, including:
- Failure to pay rent
- Breaking lease terms
- Illegal activity
- Destruction or demolition of unit by tenant
These are not the only reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant, but these are the reasons that occur most frequently. Landlords should be prepared for these scenarios and know that if any of these occur, they have the right to file for eviction.
What can landlords NOT do to evict a tenant?
While the landlord or property owner does legally own the property that the tenant lives in, there are certain actions a landlord cannot take to encourage or force a tenant out of the unit.
Landlords in Florida cannot:
- Remove doors from the unit
- Change locks
- Shut off utilities, such as water or electricity
While having a tenant who does not pay rent or damages the property can be frustrating, resulting to any of these measures makes the situation worse. You will also be left to pay for any of the damages you caused. Also, if you were to take any of the actions above, your tenant can sue you. This will not only cost you more money but also your reputation as a landlord.
What are the steps to legally evict a tenant?
In order to avoid any issues and legally evict your tenant, follow these steps:
#1: Provide your tenant with written notice.
As a landlord, the first step you must take is to submit a written eviction notice to your tenant. There are three different types of notices you can provide depending on the situation:
- Three-day notice. A three-day notice is typically given to tenants who did not pay their rent. This notice states that the tenant will have three days (not including weekends or holidays) to pay the rent amount, or they must leave the property. If your tenant pays you the full amount within these three days, you must stop the eviction process.
- Seven-day curable notice of lease violation. If your tenant is not adhering to certain parts of the lease agreement, you can provide them with a seven-day curable notice. If the lease term they are not following can be corrected, such as not adhering to parking guidelines or owning a pet without your approval. With this type of notice, they will have seven days to fix the issue, or they will be evicted.
- Seven-day unconditional quit notice. If your tenant is engaging in illegal activity or has destroyed or severely damaged the property, you can provide them with a seven-day unconditional eviction notice. This notice means they have seven days to vacate the property.
#2: File eviction complaint.
If your tenant did not adhere to the notice you provided, regardless of which one, you can file for an eviction hearing at the county courthouse with jurisdiction over the rental property area.
You will provide the court with the necessary documents for them to begin the lawsuit process and send out a court summons and complaint about eviction to the tenant.
#3: Tenant is served with the complaint.
When the tenant has been served, they will have five days to respond to the complaint. During this time, the tenant must respond in writing stating why they do not believe they should be evicted, and they must file this with the court. The tenant must also send a copy of their response to you as the landlord.
If the tenant does not respond within five days, the court may decide to default rule against them. The tenant must also pay the court the amount owed to you in rent, if applicable.
#4: Court hearing.
If the tenant submits their response to the court within the five-day response period, a hearing is arranged. Both you and the tenant will be present at this hearing.
It’s important that you remember to bring a copy of the eviction notice with you, as well as any other evidence relevant to your case.
If the judge has ruled in your favor, the court will take your Judgment of Possession and send a writ of possession to the local sheriff.
The sheriff will post the eviction notice, which gives the tenant 24 hours to leave. If they do not leave during this time, the sheriff or landlord can kick them out and lock the doors.
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