If you are someone who is buying their first rental property or if you are a fairly new landlord, one of the things you will most likely encounter is having to evict a tenant. When it comes to evicting a tenant, Florida requires landlords to go through the Courts for an eviction. Landlords in Florida are not allowed to use self-help methods when evicting a tenant. Below is a general overview of the eviction process for residential evictions for possession only, and is only meant for general informational purposes.
The first step when going through the eviction process is when the landlord sends written notice to the tenant. Depending on the reason for starting an eviction, the landlord must send a 3-day, 7-day, or a 15-day notice to the tenant. The 3-day notice is used when the tenant fails to pay rent. This notice gives the tenant 3 days to pay the rent or to vacate the property. Weekends, holidays, and the date the notice was posted are not counted. For example, if a landlord posts a 3-day notice on a Thursday and there is a holiday on the following Monday, then the three days that are counted are Friday, the following Tuesday, and then Wednesday is the third day. After the third day then the landlord can continue with the eviction.
A 7-day notice is required when a tenant has violated the lease. This notice gives the tenant seven days to cure or to fix the problem. If the tenant does fix or cure the problem, then nothing else happens and the eviction process is stopped. However, if the problem occurs again within twelve months, then the landlord can issue a second 7-day notice without giving the tenant the opportunity to cure or fix the problem. Lastly, a 15-day notice is required if the tenancy is month to month. The landlord is required to give fifteen days of notice prior to when the rent is due. It is vital to ensure the notice requirement is adequately met or else it can raise problems down the road resulting in a Judge dismissing the lawsuit and requiring the landlord to start over again.
If a tenant refuses to leave the property after the proper notice was provided, then the second step is to file and serve the complaint and summons. The complaint is the lawsuit that is filed against the tenant for possession of the property and the summons is filed and served along with the complaint which tells the tenant what they need to do. If a landlord owns the property as an entity, then the landlord is required to retain an attorney to go through the eviction process in Court. Florida law states that an entity is not allowed to defend itself in the court of law. The same goes for if a tenant is renting a property under an entity. It is important that the complaint and summons contain the required information, if it does not then a Judge can dismiss the eviction. Additionally, in Florida, landlords are not allowed to serve the tenant with the complaint and summons and must retain a process server to serve the tenant(s).
After the complaint and summons have been filed and served unto the tenant, the third step is that the tenant has five days to respond to the complaint. The five days is calculated the same way as a 3-day notice is calculated, weekends, holidays, and the day the tenant was served do not count. The different ways a tenant can respond is by filing an answer to the complaint or filing a motion to determine the amount of rent to be paid. If the tenant files an answer or a motion to determine rent, then the eviction is paused and the landlord’s attorney takes over if the landlord is a pro-se plaintiff, meaning he represents himself. When a tenant files their response, they are required to send a copy of whatever they filed to the Plaintiff. Additionally, tenants are still required to pay rent into the court registry during an eviction proceeding.
The fourth step can be any of the following: (1) the Judge can enter a default judgment, or (2) the Judge can schedule a hearing. If the Judge enters a default judgment against the tenant, then the landlord would move for final judgment and obtain a writ of possession. If a hearing is scheduled, then the parties get together in front of a Judge to present their case. If the tenant does not show up to the hearing, then the landlord automatically wins the case, but if the tenant shows up and loses their case, then the Judge will render judgment for possession to the landlord.
The fifth step is when the actual eviction takes place. After the litigation ends, the Court will issue a Writ of Possession which gives the tenant their final notice that they must vacate the property within twenty-four hours. When the Writ of Possession is issued, the sheriff posts it on the property and then coordinates the final walkthrough with the landlord or the landlord’s representative(s).
It is important that a landlord follows the correct steps in order to have a successful eviction. At the end of the day, if a landlord must go through the eviction process, they will want it to go as quickly as possible in order to avoid a longer delay. Retaining an attorney can help expedite this process and can ensure that the correct actions are taken to make the process go as smoothly and as quickly as possible. To contact an attorney click here.