If you act as a landlord for long enough, it is inevitable that you will eventually have to evict a tenant. However, whether it is for nonpayment or a violation of their contract, it might not be as easy as you would expect. Florida laws (Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes specifically) are written to ensure tenants are protected and won’t be evicted unjustly. With this in mind, it is absolutely essential that landlords take all the proper steps during the eviction process. Any mistakes will not only delay (or stop) the eviction process, but could actually result in financial penalties against the landlord. This is why it is best to have an attorney handle the eviction on your behalf.
Grounds for Eviction
The first thing that needs to be done when evicting a tenant is determining whether or not there is grounds for eviction. The most common grounds for eviction will be nonpayment or excessive late payments. Other valid grounds can include things such as:
- Having additional occupants living in the premises.
- Violating a no-pets policy.
- Breaking the law (buying, selling, or using drugs on the premises, for example).
Ultimately, the grounds for eviction will typically come down to whether or not the tenant violated their lease. No matter the cause, it is important to gather sufficient evidence to prove your case before proceeding.
Issue a Warning Letter
Once a tenant has given grounds for an eviction, you must send the tenant a warning letter identifying your concerns. This letter will serve as an official notification of the problem, so the tenant will have a chance to fix the issue without being evicted. Ideally this letter should be sent via certified mail and it should come from an attorney to ensure it is written properly.
Send a Notice of Eviction
If the issue is not resolved after sending a warning letter, a notice of eviction should be sent to the tenant. Again, this should come from an attorney and be sent via certified mail. The notice should clearly identify why they are being evicted, and how long they have to vacate the premises. The amount of time a tenant will have to leave (or address the cause of eviction) will depend on the grounds:
- Nonpayment – Tenants have three days after the notice of eviction to either pay the past due rent, or leave the property.
- Lease or Law Violations – Tenants have seven days to either address the lease/law violations, or vacate the premises.
- Ending a Lease – If a tenant has a month-to-month lease, they will have 15 days to vacate the property after the notification is given.
Create, File & Serve an Eviction Complaint
Once the amount of time stated in the eviction notice passes, an eviction complaint needs to be created and filed with the county clerk’s office. In most counties the clerk’s office will have a packet that needs to be completed, and a set fee that must be paid, to complete the process. The eviction complaint then needs to be served (typically by a sheriff or private process server) to the tenant. This will then give the tenant five days to either vacate the premises, or answer the summons in court (listed in the complaint). If the tenant doesn’t show up for court, or shows up and the judge agrees to evict the tenant, the sheriff will be instructed to evict the tenant in 24 hours.
Get the Help You Need
The eviction process can be time consuming and stressful if you try to do it on your own. Having an attorney on your side can help ensure everything is done correctly and avoid excess costs or delays. The Reyes Law Group has extensive experience helping landlords through the eviction process, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or to start evicting a tenant today.