How to Evict a Legal Tenant in Florida

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Florida changed its eviction laws in 2013, giving tenants less time to resolve problems if the landlord can evict them. However, the process is far from instantaneous. The landlord still must file a lawsuit to carry out an eviction.

Advance Notice

If a Florida landlord wants a tenant gone, she has to notify him before going to court. If the tenant fixes the problem before the notice period expires, the landlord can't evict.

  • If the rent is late, the tenant gets three days to pay up.
  • If the tenant breaks the lease, he has seven days to fix the problem and stop the eviction.
  • If the rental is by the month, the landlord must give 15 days notice that he doesn't want to renew. For a weekly rental it's seven days. There's no way for the tenant to fix this.
  • If a lease requires the tenant to give a specific amount of notice that he doesn't want to renew the lease -- commonly 30 or 60 days -- the landlord has the same obligation.

The Florida Law Help website says that if the landlord warns a tenant in writing about a lease violation, and it happens again within 12 months, the landlord can evict even if the tenant fixes the problem. If the problem is serious — such as the destruction of the apartment or destruction of other tenants' property — the landlord can evict no matter what the tenant does.

The Florida Statutes say that a landlord who accepts rent when she knows the tenant has violated the lease loses the right to evict for that issue.

Notice in Writing

The landlord has to give the tenant a written eviction notice that conforms to Florida law. It doesn't have to follow the version given in the statutes word-for-word, but it should be substantially the same.

"You are advised that your lease is terminated effective immediately. You shall have 7 days from the delivery of this letter to vacate the premises. This action is taken because (cite the noncompliance) ." —one sample notice from state statutes.

Delivery can be made by hand, by mail or by leaving a copy prominently posted at the rental.

Filing to Evict

The landlord has to sue in the same county where the rental property is located. The property manager may file suit on behalf of the owner. If the tenant files an answer, however, the owner or her attorney must participate in the suit.

Once the landlord files a complaint with the clerk of court, the county sheriff or an authorized process server will hand-deliver a copy of the complaint and a court summons to the tenant. After two unsuccessful attempts at personal service, the papers may be left at the rental, provided a second copy is mailed to the tenant.

The tenant has five days to file an answer with the court, as well as mailing a copy of the answer to the landlord. Answer forms should be available from the clerk of court, or on the court website. If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent, the tenant must deposit the unpaid amount with the court.

Tip

  • If the tenant disputes the amount of rent due, she must file a motion requesting the court determine the right figure.

Should the tenant fail to take these steps, or if she doesn't show up at the hearing, the landlord can win by default. If the tenant does follow the rules, she gets her day in court. Possible defenses include that damage to the unit was caused by someone else, or that the rent is up-to-date.

Eviction

If the landlord wins the suit, the court will issue a writ of possession. The sheriff will post the writ at the rental, after which the tenant has 24 hours to leave. If he does not, he can be removed forcibly.

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