Most, if not all, U.S. states have landlord-tenant laws specifying the obligations of the landlord and tenant and governing how a landlord may evict a tenant and under what conditions or circumstances. The Puerto Rico eviction process differs in that the terms of the lease agreement will dictate the steps in the eviction process regarding notice and other steps to be taken. Otherwise, without a written rental agreement, contract law will guide the parties.
Puerto Rico does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without the court process such as serving a notice in some cases and by filing a summons and complaint. The law prohibits constructive eviction measures such as shutting off utility services, locking out the tenant, removing the tenant’s possessions or threatening the tenant into complying with certain things.
American law states that a rental property has an implied warranty of habitability, meaning that is fit to live in and is free of any dangerous or unhealthy conditions. Puerto Rico has no comparable law but most leases provide for a promise or warranty of habitability. This obligates the landlord to provide hot and cold running water, electricity, heat, an operational plumbing system and doors and windows that are in good condition.
If the landlord fails to provide any of these essential services, the tenant may vacate the premises with no obligation to pay the rent and may be able to recover moving costs and attorney fees if the tenant must defend him or herself in court or files a suit to recover damages.
Puerto Rico Eviction Notice to Quit
Unless the rental agreement provides for it, a landlord in the Puerto Rico eviction process need not first give notice to the tenant that he or she intends to evict the tenant unless overdue rent is paid or a lease violation is remedied.
Otherwise, the landlord can either choose to give a Puerto Rico Eviction Notice or must do so under the written lease requirements. These notices include the following:
- Eviction Notice
- Notice to Pay
- Notice to Quit
- Notice of Lease Violation
- Notice of Termination
The Notice to Quit can be used when the tenant fails to pay rent on time, has engaged in conduct detrimental to the health or safety of other tenants or has committed unlawful acts including drug or prostitution offenses.
If given as required under the lease, the notices generally must comply with U.S. law in giving the tenant 3-5 days to comply and in specifying the lease provision that has been violated.
Demand for Compliance and Demand for Possession
This is a form a landlord may use if the tenant has been served with any of the above notices to vacate the unit.
Summons and Complaint
Under the Puerto Rico eviction process, a landlord can bypass the notice requirement unless the rental contract specifies otherwise and proceed directly to file and serve a Summons and Complaint in Unlawful Detainer for breach of contract. The action is to force the tenant out of the unit and for money damages, usually for rent due and owing.
A tenant can present any available defenses including the landlord’s breach of the lease provision of habitability rendering the property unsafe or unfit to live in, that the eviction is for a discriminatory reason or is in retaliation for the tenant exercising a statutory or constitutional right.
If the landlord wins the suit, the court will issue a judgment in favor of the landlord and ordering the tenant to vacate the premises. The landlord will have to use the services of local law enforcement to forcibly remove the tenant if he or she refuses to leave by the date ordered.