Evicting a tenant in Florida is a cumbersome process, since it involves a series of systematic legal steps as enjoined in Chapter 83 of Florida Legal Code.
Evicting a Tenant in Florida
The relationship between a landlord and a tenant in Florida has always been a sensitive subject, because each of them has separate rights and duties as conferred by the Florida Legal Code. A rental agreement creates a legal relationship between a landlord and a tenant and it remains smooth and cordial as long as a landlord or a tenant confines himself within his limits. Any intrusion made by a landlord or a tenant into the domain of the other will always provoke instant reaction in the form of legal action seeking remedies.
Under Title VI of the Florida Legal Code which deals with Civil Practice and Procedure, Part I and II of Chapter 83 govern the Non-Residential and Residential Tenancies. Sections 83.001 to 83.251 cover the Non-Residential Tenancies and Sections 83.40 to 83.682 deals with Residential Tenancies.
The Non-Residential Tenancies denote:
* When residence or detention is incidental to medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious or similar services.
* Occupancy under a contract of sale of a dwelling unit.
* Temporary occupation in a hotel, condominium, motel, rooming house, public large, mobile Home Park.
* Occupancy of a co-operative apartment
* Occupancy of a condominium unit.
Residential tenancy denotes ‘the occupation of a home or residence or sleeping place by a single or more persons who maintains a common household’
As defined by Section 83.43 of Chapter 83 of the Florida Legal Code:
* landlord is ‘the owner or lesser of a dwelling unit’
* tenant is ‘a person entitled to occupy a dwelling unit under a rental agreement’
* Rental agreement is ‘a written agreement, including amendments or addenda or an oral agreement for a duration of less than one year, providing for use and occupancy of premises.’
Despite having a rental agreement with a tenant, a landlord is forced to seek his eviction for the following reasons:
* Non-payment of rent by the tenant:
When the tenant defaults from paying the rent to the rented premises by violating the provisions of the rental agreement, the landlord is forced to issue a three days notice to the tenant, on receipt of which the tenant must pay the rental dues immediately. Complying with the demand of the notice, when the tenant pays the rent, the land lord waives his legal right of action against the tenant. If the tenant fails to pay the rental dues within three days, the land lord can seek his eviction through legal proceedings.
* When the tenant flutes the rental rules of the rental agreement:
A tenant is under obligation to comply with the provisions of a rental agreement when he has occupied the rental premises of the landlord.
1. He has to keep the rental premises clean and sanitary.
2. He has to keep all the plumbing fixtures clean and sanitary and in good repair, besides using the electrical, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities reasonably.
3. He should not destroy, deface, damage and impair the rented premises.
4. He should not disturb his neighbors and cause a breach of peace.
If a tenant breaches any one of the above mentioned regulations, it warrants an intervention and legal action by the land lord. However, if the breaches made by a tenant can be cured, they are known as curable breaches.e.g using unauthorized pets and entertaining guests; if they are not curable, they are known as non-curable breaches. e.g intentional damage, destruction caused to the rental premises.If the tenant commits any non-curable breach, the landlord will issue a seven days notice of eviction to the tenant.If the tenant does not comply with seven days notice, the landlord is entitled to seek his eviction through legal proceedings.
* When the tenant abandons the rental premises:
If a tenant proposes to leave and absent from the rental premises for more than half of the rental period, say more than 15 days in a monthly rental mode or for more than 45 days in a quarterly rental mode, he must notify the landlord before leaving and absenting from the rental premises.If the tenant violates this provision, the land lord is entitled to seek his eviction through legal proceedings.
* End of Lease:
If the oral or written lease entered into between the land lord and the tenant has ended and the land lord is not willing to extend or renew the lease, the tenant has to necessarily vacate the dwelling unit.If the tenant does not vacate the dwelling unit and continue to reside in the dwelling unit, then the land lord has no option but to proceed against the tenant for eviction.
Evicting a Tenant:
If a tenant violates the provisions of the rental agreement, by defaulting from paying the rent for the dwelling unit despite getting a three day notice from the land lord, commits non-curable breaches in the rental premises and continues to occupy the rental premises despite receiving a seven days notice for eviction from the land lord, the latter has no other go but to take appropriate legal steps to evict the tenant from the dwelling unit and to take possession of the dwelling unit, besides collecting the outstanding rent from the tenant along with interest.
However, before initiating any eviction proceedings, the land lord should necessarily consult an attorney, mobilize his legal fees along with the filing expenses, collect the relevant documents for filing and then proceed to file a complaint in an appropriate court of law in Florida within whose jurisdiction the rented premises or the dwelling unit is situate. It is equally important to know the eviction procedure and the process fees required to be paid at each stage of the eviction proceedings followed in the particular county of Florida where the land lord’s dwelling unit is situate, because each county follows a separate process fee collecting system until the possession of the dwelling unit is handed over to the landlord. Though Florida eviction laws are based on Florida Legal Code, the eviction proceedings followed in each county slightly varies from the other. Florida has as many as 67 counties.
For example, the eviction process and the procedure followed in the county of Manatee slightly differ from the eviction process and procedure followed in the county of Madison:
* Before commencing the eviction proceedings against a tenant who defaults in paying the rent for the land lord’s dwelling unit, situate in the county of Manatee, the land lord has to issue a three days notice to the defaulting tenant, whereas in the county of Madison, the land lord has to issue a five days legal notice to the defaulting tenant.
Therefore, it is important to know the eviction process and the procedure followed in the county of Florida where the land lord’s dwelling unit is situate and the location of the county court where the land lord intends to file his eviction complaint against the tenant.
Eviction Process and Procedure:
Eviction of a tenant from the dwelling unit of the land lord in Florida involves systematic steps:
Issue of notice to the defaulting tenant: By ascertaining the name of the county of Florida, where the land lord’s dwelling unit is situate, the land lord has to issue a three days or five days notice to the tenant either by hand or by mail or just posting it before filing any eviction petition against the defaulting tenant.
Filing of eviction complaint: The land lord has to file the eviction complaint in the proper format in the county court where the dwelling unit is situate along with the following additional documents:
* Copy of the three days or five days notice issued to the tenant by the land lord.
* Copy of the lease or rental agreement, if any, entered into between the land lord and the tenant.
* Filing fee in the form of cash, check or through credit card, certified check or money order as applicable to a county.
* Service of summons fee, as applicable in the county, for tenant by check or money order payable to the sheriff of the county where the dwelling unit is situate, along with self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage.
* Before filing the complaint for eviction, the land lord must have sufficient number of copies of the eviction complaint and other documents filed along with the complaint.The eviction complaint should have the complete details of the dwelling unit, its door number,street name etc.The copies of eviction complaint and other documents should be sent to the tenant or tenants to their correct address.
Further Steps in Eviction proceedings:
* The next step is to file the eviction complaint in the county court, the appropriate place in a county earmarked for filing along with requisite filing fee and the process fee payable to the sheriff as applicable in the respective county.
* After filing the eviction complaint, the summons is served to the tenant allowing five days to respond to the complaint excluding the holidays.If the tenant fails to respond within the stipulated period, the land lord has to take the next step in the eviction process.
* If the tenant does not respond to the eviction complaint, the land lord has to submit the motion for default and the final judgment in the proper format as obtained from the county clerk.
* After completing the original motion for default and the original judgment, the land lord should send the copies of both to the tenant in a stamped envelope.If the tenant does not vacate even after receiving the final judgment, the land lord has to proceed to obtain the writ of possession.
* Obtaining the writ of possession is the last step in the eviction proceedings.The land lord should contact the county clerk to obtain a writ of possession.On payment of the requisite fee to the sheriff by cash, or check or by money order payable to the sheriff along with a stamped envelope, he will take steps to serve the writ of possession to the tenant.When the writ of possession is served to the tenant, the land lord may obtain the completed sheriff information sheet that contains the details about the writ of possession issued to the land lord.
Thus evicting a tenant in Florida is a cumbersome process, since it involves a series of systematic legal steps as enjoined in Chapter 83 of Florida Legal Code.
2.2010 Florida Statues/On line Sunshine/Official Internet site of the Florida legislature
3.Guidelines for Florida Residential Eviction/CSEU e-course