Florida residential landlords must follow the Florida eviction process to legally evict a tenant from leased property. Trying to evict a tenant by extralegal means such as changing locks, turning off utilities, threatening the tenant or engaging in any other act designed to force the tenant to leave, is illegal and may subject the landlord to civil damages to the tenant. So make sure you always follow the proper procedure.
Like most evictions in any jurisdiction, a landlord’s first step in the Florida eviction process is service of the appropriate written notice. For nonpayment of rent, the Florida eviction notice is a 3-Day Eviction Notice (see Florida Statutes 83.56(3) and 83.595 regarding nonpayment of rent). These notices (available for download here) must contain certain specific information to be effective.
When counting the 3 day notice period, do not include the first day of service, weekends or holidays.
For instances where the eviction is for noncompliance with the rental agreement but a cure is possible or permissible, a 7 Day Eviction Notice is given, also called “Notice of Noncompliance, Seven Day Notice to Cure.” It must contain what act or omission constitutes the noncompliance and that the lease will be terminated unless the tenant cures the breach within the 7 days.
The tenant must be advised that the same breach or noncompliance within the following 12-months will result in a termination without the opportunity to cure the noncompliance.
Examples of noncompliance might mean having unauthorized persons or pets living on the property, the tenant is accumulating trash or otherwise not keeping the premises in a healthy condition, or operating an unauthorized business.
There is also a 7-day notice for termination for evictions where a cure of the breach or violation is not possible or permitted. These Florida eviction notices would apply in cases where the tenant has committed a criminal act, destroyed or damaged the premises, or continued with an unreasonable disturbance or nuisance.
A 15-day notice in Florida is only required for month-to-month tenancies. It must be served 15 days before the date rent is due. For example, the notice must be served on April 15 if the landlord wants the tenant to vacate by May 1.
Service of Notice
Service of a Florida eviction notice can be accomplished by personal service on the tenant, by leaving it with an adult tenant at the unit, by certified mail or by posting it on the unit’s door. The person serving the notice must indicate the manner of service.
Eviction Summons and Complaint
If the tenant fails to comply or to leave the property, the landlord needs to file and serve an Eviction Summons and Complaint. A copy of the notice and certificate of service must be produced at the clerk’s office and the completed complaint form notarized by the court clerk.
The summons and complaint must be served by either a registered process server or sheriff. The tenant has 5 days to file an answer with the court. If an answer is filed and served on the landlord within the 5 days, the landlord must contact the court clerk to schedule a hearing date.
Should no answer be filed, the landlord needs to file a Motion for a Default Judgment and request a Final Judgment for Possession, also called a Final Judgment for Removal of Tenant.
Defenses to Florida Eviction
If the tenant is alleging a valid defense to the eviction, he or she must deposit the amount of the rent with the court during the pendency of the case. If tenant does not, then a default judgment will be issued.
Some common defenses to Florida eviction include the following:
- Defective notice
- Constructive eviction or case of material noncompliance by the landlord resulting an unsafe or unfit premises so long as the tenant has given 7 days written notice to the landlord specifying the noncompliance and intent to not pay the rent as a result.
- Retaliation by the landlord for the tenant complaining of the property’s condition, of the landlord’s noncompliance, for organizing or participating in a tenant’s union or for exercising any other right under Florida landlord tenant law unless the landlord can show that the primary reason for eviction was for a good cause.
- Discrimination. No landlord can evict a tenant based on the tenant’s race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, family status, religion, national origin or disability.
Writ of Possession
If the landlord is granted possession, the landlord must obtain a Writ of Possession to be given to the sheriff for service. Occasionally, the address of the property described in the Final Judgment for Removal of Tenant is different from that on the requested writ. If so, the clerk may not issue the writ.
Once the writ is served or conspicuously posted on the property, the tenant has 24-hours to vacate. If tenant does not, then tenant will be forcibly removed.