Handling an eviction can be a challenging and emotional experience. Much like in other states, the eviction process in Florida has a specific set of steps to follow, which can be overwhelming if you’re already unfamiliar with how evictions work.
Whether you're a landlord looking to repossess your rental property or a tenant facing the threat of eviction, knowing the details of the Florida eviction process is crucial. In this guide, we'll explore how long an eviction takes, each step involved, and what you can expect throughout the process. We'll also discuss tenant and landlord rights and offer tips on how to keep a record to help avoid eviction-related problems.
Let’s get started.
What is An Eviction?
Eviction is the civil process where a landlord can legally remove a tenant from their rental property. An eviction may occur for various reasons, which we’ll go over below.
Reasons to Evict a Tenant
First, can a landlord evict a tenant at any time? It is their property, after all! The short answer is: no, they cannot. If the tenant signed the lease agreement, they have the right to reside in the property as defined in the lease unless they do any of the following:
- Fail to pay rent
- Break the rules outlined in the lease agreement (smoking, etc.)
- Damage the property or fail to maintain it
- Disrespect or disturb neighbors
If, however, the tenant did not sign a lease agreement, the landlord may be able to evict the tenant at any time without reason as long as proper notice is provided to the tenant. According to Fla. Stat. § 83.57, the amount of notice needed in Florida is 60 days for year-to-year leases, 30 days for quarterly and monthly leases, and seven days for week-to-week contracts.
For more details on reasons to evict, see Fla. Stat. § 83.52.
Do Leases Automatically Renew in Florida?
No. In Florida, leases do not automatically renew if they’ve expired, so tenants who continue to rent are considered without a lease.
Evict Process in Florida: What Not To Do
Florida law prohibits taking measures outside the eviction process when dealing with non-paying or problematic tenants. If you’re a landlord and you plan to evict, make sure to avoid these methods at all costs:
- Retaliating after a tenant requests repairs or reports code violations
- Shutting off utilities such as water, electricity, or gas to force tenants out
- Removing the tenant’s doors or changing the locks
- Forcibly removing tenants or their belongings without a court order
- Discriminating tenants based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, disability, gender, or family status
Can Tenants Sue Their Landlord?
Yes, they can. Tenants can sue their landlord if they fail to follow the proper eviction process or display the abovementioned behaviors. A tenant may sue for monetary damages, several months of rent, and even attorney fees, so it’s best to stick with the eviction process to avoid the risk of a lawsuit.
Here are the steps to follow during the eviction:
1. Provide Notice to the Tenant
First, the landlord needs to let the tenant know that they’re being evicted. They can do this by one of three types of eviction notices: 3-day notice, 7-day notice with an opportunity to correct, or an unconditional 7-day notice.
3-Day Notice in Florida
The most common notice landlords give tenants before eviction is the three-day eviction notice, typically used when a tenant falls behind on paying rent. This notice gives the tenant three days to pay the overdue rent in full. Otherwise, the eviction process can start.
7-Day Notice with a Cure in Florida
When a violation has occurred, the landlord can issue a seven-day notice to the tenant to “cure” or rectify the situation. The seven days does not include the day that the notice is served but does include weekends and holidays.
If the tenant has not resolved the issue within the time frame, the landlord can continue the eviction process.
7-Day Notice without Cure in Florida
If the tenant causes significant property damage or repeats the same violation more than once in 12 months, the landlord can terminate the lease with a 7-day notice. The tenant then has seven days to vacate the property without further options to stay.
2. File an Eviction Lawsuit
After the landlord has given notice, the next step is to file an eviction lawsuit in the county court associated with the area of the rental property. The landlord must file a summons and complaint, which outlines the reasons for eviction.
The complaint should provide the information needed to order an eviction, including:
- Information about the landlord and tenant
- The property location
- List of tenant violations
- A request to evict the tenant
- Lease agreement details
- Written notices
The landlord should come prepared with all the information above and be as detailed as possible. They will also need to pay a filing fee of anywhere from $100-$200, depending on the courthouse.
3. Serve the Tenant with Eviction Documents
Once the paperwork is filed at the courthouse, the eviction summons and complaint need to be served to the tenant. Usually, this will be handed to the tenant in person by either the county sheriff or a third party that specializes in personal service, also known as delivering court documents to the person being served.
There may be additional fees associated with filing the documents and serving the tenant.
4. Attend the Court Hearing
After the tenant receives the summons and complaint, they have five days to file a response to the complaint in writing at the same county clerk's office. The tenant typically pays any filing fees. If the tenant responds to the court, a hearing is set, and a judge is assigned.
The hearing is a pivotal stage in the process, as both the landlord and tenant must physically appear on the requested date and present their case before a judge. Both parties should bring a copy of the complaint, as well as any evidence (including screenshots, photos, witnesses, etc.).
At the hearing, a judge will listen to both sides and determine the winner. If the court rules in the landlord’s favor, a clerk will issue a Writ of Possession.
What’s a Writ of Possession?
A Writ of Possession is a legal document allowing a sheriff to remove a tenant from the rental property if they do not voluntarily leave within a specified period, usually 24 hours. A Writ of Possession also grants the landlord repossession of their property.
5. The Sheriff Serves the Tenant
In the final step of the eviction process, the county sheriff serves the tenant the Writ of Possession and then acts on it. The sheriff hands the tenant a copy of the writ or leaves it at the door if the tenant is unavailable.
When the writ is delivered, the tenant has 24 hours to vacate the property. Sometimes, an additional 48 to 72 hours is granted to ensure the tenant has the time and means to pack their items and move.
The Final Eviction
After 24 hours, the deputy will arrive at the property and physically remove the tenant, if necessary. The landlord can then change the locks, inspect the property, and secure the building under the safe watch of the deputy.
If a tenant leaves behind more possessions than the landlord can remove, the landlord may need to gather movers to eject the remaining items on the property. From there, the landlord can repossess their property and prepare it for the next tenant.
How long does the eviction process take in Florida?
Overall, the entire eviction process in Florida can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The exact duration may vary, so patience and preparation are essential.
Tenants in Florida have rights that protect them from unfair and unlawful eviction practices. These rights include the following:
- A proper eviction notice with a specific reason for eviction
- Ability to contest eviction and present their case to a judge
- The right to remain on the property until a court order is issued
- The right to request repairs or maintenance
- Privacy while living in the rental, except for proper notices and emergencies
Landlords also have specific rights under Florida law. Knowing their rights can help avoid unlawful or risky behavior. Landlord rights include the following:
- The right to serve proper eviction notices when tenants violate the lease
- Ability to file an eviction lawsuit when tenants do not comply
- The right to inspect and maintain the rental property as long as they’ve provided proper notice to tenants before entering, except in emergencies
- Receive rent payments on time
- The right to regain possession of their property through the legal eviction process
How to Keep Records Ahead of Time
It’s a good idea to record all interactions and transactions between landlord and tenant just in case you need it down the road. Providing physical proof to a judge goes a long way and can help make your case. Here are some tips on staying organized:
- Keep records of all communication with your tenant or landlord, including emails, text messages, and written notes.
- Keep detailed records of rent payments, including dates, amounts, and payment methods, to establish a payment history.
- Document property inspections and maintenance requests to show you are fulfilling your responsibilities as a landlord or tenant.
- Keep signed copies of the lease agreements to understand and reference terms as needed.
- If you need to initiate the eviction process, file all notices and court documents together in a safe, secure place.
It’s easy to navigate the Florida eviction process when you understand each step and why it’s crucial. By following the procedures outlined above, remembering landlord and tenant rights, and keeping a thorough record, you can have a successful outcome and reduce the stress of eviction.