Florida Eviction Services

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If you own an investment property, you may have already dealt with problem tenants. Whether they are refusing to pay rent, bringing in extra tenants, or otherwise violating the lease agreement, you may be ready to get them out of the rental property. However, under Florida law, there are specific steps that must be followed in order to legally evict a tenant.

Self-help eviction – such as changing the locks – is illegal in Florida for both residential and commercial landlords. Instead, you must provide the tenants with notice and go through a court process to obtain a Writ of Possession. It is only after a judge issues a ruling in your favor that you can take steps to have a tenant removed from the rental unit.

At the Lopez Law Group, we work with landlords throughout West Central Florida to help them with every aspect of handling rental properties – including evictions. We understand the law, and use that knowledge to ensure that evictions are done properly and in accordance with the law. To talk to a Florida eviction lawyer, reach out to our law offices today.

What Is a Legitimate Basis for Eviction?

In an ideal world, evictions wouldn’t be necessary. A tenant would comply with the terms of the lease, and simply move out when the agreement has ended. Unfortunately – as many landlords know all too well – that isn’t often the case.

A property owner can terminate a lease for cause and end the tenancy before the term of the rental agreement is over. A lease can be terminated for cause for a number of different reasons, including:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Committing an illegal act (such as selling drugs out of the apartment)
  • Violating the lease terms (such as by moving a dog into a pet-free apartment without a basis for doing so).

The reason for terminating the lease is important because it will determine what type of notice you have to provide to a tenant. Specifically, if a tenant fails to pay rent and is late by 3 or more days, then you will need to give them a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit. This notice must state that the tenant has 3 days to either pay rent or move out of the rental unit.

If the tenant violated the terms of the lease in another way, then the landlord must give a 7 day notice to cure IF the violation can be corrected. The notice must state that the tenant has 7 days to correct the violation or the lease is subject to termination.  If the tenant does fix the issue, then you can file an eviction lawsuit.

However, if the tenant commits a lease violation that cannot be cured (such as intentionally destroying the rental property), you can then file a 7 day notice known as an unconditional quit notice. With this type of notice, the tenant does not have an opportunity to fix the violation. Instead, the notice informs the tenant that they have 7 days to move out or the landlord will start eviction proceedings.

Importantly, a landlord cannot move forward with an eviction until the notice period has elapsed. A Florida eviction services attorney can help you both with notices to tenants as well as the formal eviction filings.

The Eviction Process

Once the notice period has ended, a landlord can file an eviction complaint if the tenant has not fixed the problem, such as through payment of rent or curing a lease violation. The first step is to file a complaint with the county court where the rental property is located. For example, in St. Petersburg, you will need to file the complaint in the Pinellas County Court.

An eviction lawsuit may also be referred to as an unlawful detainer action. The eviction complaint must contain specific information, including:

  1. Name of the landlord (plaintiff)
  2. Name of the tenant (defendant)
  3. Location of the property
  4. An averment that the plaintiff owns the property
  5. The rental agreement details (i.e., rent amount plus when the rent is due).
  6. Information about any violation, such as nonpayment of rent.
  7. A statement about when the required notice was served, and that the tenant refused to either cure the violation or vacate the property.

Generally, landlords will affix a copy of both the lease agreement and the eviction notice to the complaint. After filing the complaint, you will need to serve it to the tenant. Typically, you will need to personally serve the tenant with the complaint (either yourself or through a process server), but in some cases, you may be able to post it in a conspicuous place and mail it to them.

The tenant has 5 business days to respond to the complaint after receiving it.  They may contest the eviction, and present defenses to the lawsuit. In this situation, you will need to go to court for a hearing on the merits of your eviction lawsuit.

If the tenant fails to answer the complaint, then you can seek a default judgment from the court. Whether you get a judgment on the merits or a default judgment, if the tenant does not vacate the rental property, you will need to seek a Writ of Possession. This document can then be given to the sheriff, who will work with the landlord to remove the tenant from the premises.

Importantly, it is against Florida law for both residential and commercial landlords to engage in what is known as self-help evictions. In other words, if you change the locks, throw the tenant’s possessions on the street, or cut off utilities, you could be held liable for any damages that the tenant suffered – plus additional penalties. If a tenant does not voluntarily leave a rental unit, then the only way to legally remove them is by filing an eviction lawsuit, obtaining a judgment, and potentially getting a writ of possession.

Eviction laws can be complicated. You must follow the steps outlined by Florida statutes in order to properly evict a tenant. If you violate the law in some way, then not only will your tenant not have to pay you unpaid rent or leave the premises – but you may even owe them money. An experienced Florida eviction lawyer can help to ensure that the process is done correctly and will save you time and money.

Work with a Florida Eviction Services Attorney

If you own rental properties in Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Pasco County or the surrounding areas, then having a seasoned legal team is vital to protect your interests. Our law firm will advocate for your rights. With our experience in landlord-tenant law, you can rest assured that your eviction will be completed properly and in a timely fashion.

The Lopez Law Group represents owners of real property in all types of legal matters. We work hard to protect our client’s interests and to help them achieve the best possible outcome for their situation. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, give us a call at 866-235-9480 or fill out our online contact form.

Related: Eviction Process For Landlords in Florida

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Mr. Lopez was a Godsend and really helped me with my situation. Him and the entire firm were very diligent and helped speed the early stages of the process along due to a pressing situation. Throughout my experience working with the firm, they were always responsive and available any time I had a question or wanted to check on the state of affairs. Hopefully I won’t have to recommend Lopez Law Group to my friends or family, but if those unfortunate circumstances arise then there’s only one name I would trust. Thank you again for all your help!

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St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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