If a tenant does not pay rent in Florida, a landlord can evict the tenant if he or she follows the correct procedures as defined in the Florida statutes.
Florida law no longer allows “self-help” evictions, which few states continue to recognize, such as changing the locks or shutting off the utilities. A self-help eviction occurs when a landlord retakes possession of a property without using the eviction process. Courts no longer favor this approach as it can lead to dangerous confrontations, assault, or even harassment. Landlords must now follow the eviction legal process.
The key to the eviction process is the proper preparation and delivery of a three-day eviction notice. This notice must be delivered, and cannot be waived by either the landlord or the tenant. Termination for nonpayment of rent is exclusively accomplished under the act of serving the three-day notice to all tenants. Without the termination for nonpayment, a lawsuit to remove a tenant who refuses to leave cannot be heard in court. If the landlord purchased the property through a foreclosure, there may be an additional 90-day notice required.
The Florida statute provides the three-day notice must “substantially comply” with the form provided in the statue. This form states to the tenant the “what, when, and to whom, and where” regarding the tenant’s requirements to avoid an eviction. Many Florida courts have held that a three day notice that fails to substantially comply with the notice is defective, and a court will be unable to evict a tenant if the notice is not proper.
The tenant has a few options once he or she receives the notice. The tenant can pay the notice’s request amount, the tenant can move out within three days and the landlord can keep the security deposit, or the tenant can stay. If the tenant stays after the three day period and does not move out, then the landlord can proceed to file a summons and complaint with the court to gain legal possession of the property.
It is important to note the notice given to the tenant must state the sum of the rent owed in the statute. The landlord cannot ask for more money than the rent usually paid by the tenant or a court will deem the notice defective. While a landlord may believe the notice should include late fees or other penalties, the court will not accept these fees other than rent. If the landlord asks for less than the rent, or receives less than the total amount of the rent, this will not render the notice defective.
If a landlord accepts money after the three day notice period ends, a court will hold the notice defective unless:
- The landlord provides a receipt to the tenant, stating the amount received and the agreed date and amount of the balance of the rent due;
- Placing the partial rent in the court registry;
- Posting a new three-day notice with the updated rent amount due.
The tenants may be served the notice through the mail or delivered on the property and a copy posted on the property, pursuant to the statute. All tenants must be identified in the notice and the tenants retains all of their rights during this period.
For more information on how to properly evict a tenant for late rent, contact the Law Office of David Goldman PLLC today at 904-685-1200.