Every landlord has had that one tenant that just rubs them the wrong way in everything they do. Late for rent, doesn’t take proper care of the property, racks up noise violations, always bothering the other tenants. Simply put, it’s a tenant that needs to go.
But there is a legal way and an illegal way of evicting a tenant, so it’s important that you follow the law when evicting your own bothersome tenant. We’ll take a look at what has to happen before you can evict a tenant here in Florida. But we’ll also make sure to go over what you are not allowed to do when evicting a tenant. We’ll also see what the eviction process looks like in action.
What Has to Happen Before an Eviction Can Take Place?
While the laws about what you have to do before you can evict somebody might be annoying in this particular case, it’s important to realize that they were made to protect people from losing their homes at a moment’s notice. It’s much harder for a slumlord to exploit people because of the laws in place.
However, those same laws that protect your nice and reasonable tenants also protect your troublesome one. So before you can get them out of your building you have to:
- Provide them with a written notice to vacate the premises
- Serve them with the legal paperwork (a summons and a complaint), which have to be delivered by an authorized process server such as a sheriff
- Allow the tenant to respond, which could be to accept the eviction or to fight it
- Take the issue into the courts to determine whether or not the eviction will be granted or denied
- Post a writ of possession upon receiving the grant from the courts
Keep in mind that the courts are not going to be willing to grant an eviction that goes against the law. Make sure that the reason for the eviction has some legal footing. But, most of all, make sure that you follow this process because there can be serve consequences for trying to evict a tenant illegally.
What Am I Not Allowed To Do When Evicting a Tenant?
There are a number of actions that could be taken against a tenant in order to force them to move out and almost all of them are very illegal. For example, some things that you can do as a landlord to try to evict a tenant are:
- Cutting off their water, gas, or electricity in order to make staying on the property less appealing
- Changing the locks on the property so that they can’t get back inside with their keys
- Removing windows or doors from the property to deprive them of privacy or to expose them to the elements
- Taking or removing their property from the home, or depriving them of their property in any way
If you attempt to remove a tenant by using an illegal tactic then you could find yourself owing damages to a tenant. Landlords that use illegal means to remove tenants are liable for up to three months worth of rent. Additionally, if your actions cost the tenant more than three months’ worth of rent in damages then you could pay more. Plus, the courts can decide to force you to pay the lawyer fees for the tenant if they win.
Ultimately, this all makes it less appealing to try to illegally evict a tenant. This means that it is best to follow the legally outlined process. Let’s see how that looks in action.
What Does the Eviction Process Look Like In Action?
The first thing you have to do is provide a written notice to vacate. You can evict a tenant in this manner if they have failed to pay rent or if they have broken the terms of the lease. Each of these have their own rules around them, such as giving the tenants three working days to come up with the rent they owe or having previously warned about the terms of the lease so they can correct the issue.
Tenants can remain on the property after being served with a notice to vacate. This is just the start of the process, rather than the end.
If the tenant refuses to correct the problem then you can file a complaint. The tenant will receive a copy of the summons and the complaint. A copy is sent in the mail and another may be left on the tenant’s door. The tenant will have five days to answer the complaint, starting from the day after they were served and not including weekends or holidays.
The tenant has to file an answer in writing. This has their defense for why they should not be evicted. If the tenant does not answer the complaint then you can get a default judgment, which basically means you win because they failed to make use of their legal options.
With an answer filed, the case can move to the courts once a hearing date is scheduled. This is your chance to present the facts of the eviction to a judge to get a ruling on whether or not the eviction can continue. Again, if the tenant fails to attend the hearing then you will win by default. Nevertheless, you should never assume that an eviction will be an easy process. They can be quite frustrating.
Can an Attorney Help With Evicting a Tenant?
An attorney won’t be able to speed up the process any, since there are certain windows of time that are dictated by the law. But an attorney, such as those at Lankford Law Firm, can ensure that you are acting within your legal rights as a landlord. This means that you can rest a little easier knowing that you have the law on your side when it comes to the eviction process and this alone will greatly increase your chances of smoothly evicting that troublesome tenant that has been causing you all this trouble.
By: Melody Lankford
After graduating from Davidson College, Melody Lankford earned her J.D. from Florida State University’s College of Law in 2004 and was admitted to the Florida Bar that same year. Ms. Lankford joined Raydon Corporation as in-house counsel in 2004. She worked there until 2012, when she founded the Lankford Law Firm. She is an experienced Daytona Beach small business attorney who offers sound legal counsel and experience-based insights to her business clients.