Tenants in Florida have certain obligations under the lease agreement, like making timely rent payments and caring for their rental premises. If the tenant fails to honor such obligations, the landlord can terminate their lease and legally evict them.
Evictions in Florida, just like anywhere else in the country, must abide by the law. As a landlord, you cannot, for instance, try to evict your tenant by removing their belongings or shutting down their utilities. These are forms of “self-help” eviction tactics and are illegal.
To successfully evict a tenant, landlords must follow the proper judicial eviction procedure in the state. Typically, the eviction process takes anywhere between two and three weeks from start to finish. That said, it can also take longer depending on the exact reason for eviction and whether the tenant puts up a fight or not.
Here is everything landlords need to know about the legal eviction procedure in Florida.
1. Have Cause for an Eviction
To start an eviction process in Florida, landlords must have a cause. The following are the legal grounds to evict a tenant:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Failure to move out after the written lease has expired
- Violating a term of the lease or rental agreement
Each of these grounds has a specific process of eviction that landlords must follow.
2. Written Notice of Eviction
The first step in evicting a tenant in Florida starts with terminating the lease agreement. And a landlord do this by serving the tenant with a Florida eviction notice.
A Florida landlord must deliver the proper notice to the tenant in either of three ways. One, by hand delivering it to the tenant, by leaving a copy of the written notice on the front door or any other conspicuous area, or by mailing a copy to the tenant.
There are different Florida eviction notices to choose from depending on the violation the tenant has committed. They are as follows:
Nonpayment of Rent
For non-payment of rent, a landlord must serve the tenant with a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. If the tenant pays the due rent within 3 days, then you, as the landlord, must stop further eviction proceedings against them. However, if they don’t pay rent and don’t leave the rental unit, you can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
In Florida, rent becomes due at the start of every pay period and becomes late a day after its due date. The only exception to this is if the lease states otherwise. You can begin the eviction procedure immediately after the rent becomes late.
Refusal to Leave Once the Lease Ends
For tenants who refuse to leave after their lease is up, the landlord must serve them a 15 Day Notice to Quit. The same notice also applies to tenants living on your property without a lease. If the 15 days end and the tenant is still living on the rental property, you can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit against them.
For tenants who violate a term of the lease, a landlord must serve them either a 7-Day Notice to Cure or a 7-Day Notice to Quit. The former notice is meant for curable violations, whereas the latter notice is meant for incurable violations.
Examples of curable violations include parking in an unauthorized area, keeping an unauthorized pet, or failing to maintain a certain level of cleanliness. The 7-Day Notice to Cure will give the tenant a maximum of 7 days to fix the violation or else risk getting evicted from the rental unit.
Incurable violations include illegal activity and excessive property damage. The 7-Day Notice gives the tenant only one option, to leave within 7 days. If they don’t leave on their own, you can move to court and file an eviction lawsuit.
3. Summons & Complaint
If the tenant doesn’t respond to the eviction notice, the landlord can go ahead and file a complaint in a relevant court. As the landlord, you should remember to include the following details on the complaint:
- Both your and your tenant’s names
- The address of the property
- The cause of the eviction
- The date of serving the notice
After notarization by the county clerk, the two documents will be forwarded to the county sheriff or any other process server for onward delivery to the tenant. Generally speaking, it can take approximately 5 days from the moment the court issues the summons to when the tenant is served.
After being served with the summons and complaint, the tenant may choose to contest their removal. In Florida, the response must be done in writing and filed with the court’s clerk within 5 days. The tenant may provide the following legal defenses in their attempt to stop their eviction:
- The eviction process was based on discriminatory reasons in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
- The landlord tried to evict the tenant through “self-help” eviction tactics, such as removing their belongings or locking them out.
- The landlord continued with the eviction process even though the tenant fixed their violation.
- The eviction was in retaliation to the tenant exercising any of their rights.
- The tenant didn’t violate the lease agreement as the landlord alleged.
- The eviction notice contains substantial errors.
- If any of these defenses are true, the eviction lawsuit may get dismissed.
4. Court Hearing
If the tenant doesn’t contest, as the landlord, you may move forward and obtain a Judgment for Possession. But if they do, there will be a hearing and the court will decide based on the evidence produced.
If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the court will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord.
But whether through a default judgment or a successful ruling, you’ll be required to obtain a Writ of Possession. This is the tenant’s final notice to leave. It gives a tenant a maximum of 24 hours to leave or else get removed by the sheriff.
As a landlord, you need to understand the Florida eviction laws as well as landlord-tenant laws, the state's security deposit laws, and other lease-related policies. If you need help with this, consider reaching out to a trusted property management firm!
NFI Property Management Solutions has over 30 years of experience in the industry. Get in touch now to learn about how we can help you reduce stress and maximize your income.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for expert legal advice. Also, laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. If you have any legal questions or concerns please reach out to a licensed attorney.