Unlawful Detainer Possession Actions Law for Landlords in Florida

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Unlawful Detainer Possession Actions Law for Landlords in Florida

If you own or manage a property in the state of Florida, you will eventually need to figure out how to evict someone from your property. A legal tenant can be evicted for a variety of reasons and then refuse to leave. This can be a highly contentious situation which is why Florida law has laid out specific legal actions that can be taken to remove this person from the property in question.

If you are struggling with a tenant who will not leave and who is not actually the renter listed on the agreement, you will need to utilize the unlawful detainer possession actions law to remove them. This is most common in situations where extended family, a girlfriend or boyfriend, or subletting friends refuse to quit the property. The team at Lopez Law Group has years of experience in these kinds of cases and can help you to exercise your rights to evict these people from a rental property.

Is an Unlawful Detainer Action the Same as Eviction?

There are some similarities between eviction and unlawful detainer actions. The main difference between the two situations is that the eviction process is carried out against a party who has a lease or rent agreement with you and is the named lessee or renter. In the case of unlawful detainer actions, you are evicting someone who is not a named renter and who has no documented agreement with you to reside on the premises.

As mentioned above, these parties can be extended family, friends, and other people whom the renter or named lessee was allowing to live with them on the property. These parties can sometimes refuse to leave because they believe that they have the same rights as the named renter does with regard to the lease or rental agreement.

The unlawful detainer actions that you can take against these parties are laid out in Florida statutes quite clearly. However, executing these actions against parties who are unwilling to remove from a property can be time-consuming and complicated in some situations. This is why having help from the team at Lopez Law is ideal in this situation. We have years of experience handling these kinds of cases and can make sure that you have the chance to seek redress of this issue with the protection of the law.

What Are My Rights in These Cases?

It can be confusing to understand what your rights are related to removing someone from your property who should not be there. If you have found out that someone who is not a legal or documented renter is living on your property, you do have rights as the owner or manager of the property.

You have the right to be represented by an attorney. You also have the right to file a Default and Default Final Judgment for Possession if there is no timely response to your legal requests for the person to quit the property. You also have the right to attempt to recover possessions, damages, and costs from the defendant if you should win the suit against them.

As someone who is seeking to remove an unwanted squatter or resident from a property, you will need to be able to prove that you have ownership of the property or the right to manage it and make decisions about who resides there. This is called “chain of title” or the “rightful possession of the property” in legal terms.

You will also need to be able to prove that you have a superior right to the property over the defendant’s right to the property. Those wishing to file court actions to remove someone from a rental property will need to pay the filing fee, service of process fees, and summons fees to be able to seek redress from the court. The clerk’s office of each county can tell you how much these fees will be.

You will also agree to use the sheriff or a process server as the notifying party who will communicate things like the Writ of Possession to the resident and who will take care of direct communication with the person who is in residence. This requirement is because these cases can be highly contentious, and, in some cases, it is dangerous for property owners to engage with the unwanted resident about leaving the property.

The team at Lopez Law Group can help you to handle all of the documentation related to the actions that need to be taken to remove an unwanted resident from your property. We can also make sure that you understand all of the various steps and stages that must be undertaken to secure the property through legal means. It can be tempting to change the locks or to simply remove the possessions of the person who is residence without a rental agreement, but these actions cannot be taken under Florida law before due process has been taken care of.

What is an Ejectment Action?

What is an Ejectment Action?

If you did allow the party in question to stay at the residence without signing a rental agreement or lease agreement, you might need to use an ejectment action to remove them instead of an unlawful detainer action. Having a written agreement on hand to prove that you have allowed someone to reside on your property is very essential when it comes to the legal process. Handshake deals and verbal agreements can make the situation of removing someone from your rental property very difficult.

If you did agree that someone could reside on the property without paying rent and without a written agreement, your only legal recourse would be the ejectment action. This requires that you file a Complaint of Ejectment with the county where the property is located. There is a 20-day period where the resident of the property has a chance to reply to the complaint. Final judgment can be handed down in these cases, but often people in residence still refuse to leave.

This kind of situation will require the full support of an experienced legal team to help you to ensure that you can seek a good outcome for your case.

Seeking an Unlawful Detainer Action

If you are prepared to use the unlawful detainer action to remove someone from your property, there is a process that must be followed carefully. The timeline for these actions is shorter than in the case of the ejectment action because these parties have no right to have access to the home or unit in question.

When you use the unlawful detainer action to remove someone from your property, you do not have to serve them any kind of notice. They did not have any kind of verbal, written, or handshake deal with you to be present on the property in any situation. Notices to vacate are only used in situations where the presence of the person was agreed upon in some fashion prior to them moving in.

Unlawful detainer actions are filed with the clerk of the court in the county that the property is located in. Summons will then be sent out to the person at your address and to you as the property owner or manager. These cases will require that the person who is residing on your property reply within five days to the summons and file an answer with the court.

If there is no reply from the party who is in residence on your property, then you can request that the Clerk of the Court file a Notice of Default for the property location. This will allow you, as the property owner, to proceed with taking possession of the property again.

There are specific laws that govern the actions that can be taken to regain control of a property that is affected by an unlawful detainer action. You will need to work with one of the skilled legal experts at Lopez Law Group to be certain that you do not break the law yourself as you are attempting to regain control of the property in question.

The Florida legal system does provide self-help packets that detail the process of utilizing this law to remove someone from your rental property. You should be sure that you follow the guidelines very carefully if you think that you will attempt to execute the unlawful detainer action on your own. As you read through the advice on the website, you will see why it is probably better to have a legal expert handle this kind of situation for you.

Unlawful Detainer Possession Actions Law for Landlords in Florida

After the Defendant is Served

Once you have served the defendant, as mentioned before, they have five days to reply. Defendants who do reply will come to court on the court date. They will have the same chance as you do to be able to explain their side of the case to the judge. Your lawyer will present all of the evidence that you followed the unlawful detainer law and will be able to display the correct and legal rental agreement that you have in place that does not mention the person appearing in court.

The judge will typically make a decision about the case on the day of court. If the judge finds that the party living at your rental has no legal right to be in residence, you can elect to have a Writ of Possession executed for the property. This will be carried out by the local sheriff, and the person in residence on your property will be removed at this time.

If you are open to the person in residence becoming a formal and properly documented renter, this can be arranged via order of the court as well. This is not a common remedy that is used in these cases, but there are occasions when the person in residence is not causing damage to the property and might wish to stay. In situations where the remaining resident can afford to pay rent and might simply have been unwilling to discuss this option with you prior to going to court, the choice to become a legal renter can sometimes be a solid resolution to these cases.

If the party in question does not appear in court, you will still be issued a Writ of Possession that needs to be carried out by the county sheriff. In some cases, the person who was squatting on the property or who was in residence without your permission will have already left. You will want to be sure that you tell the deputy that they can verify that there is no one hiding in the house and that the former residents have removed from the property.

Once you are sure that the person has removed from the property, you can begin the work of removing any leftover items and repairing and cleaning the property to be able to prepare for new renters. You cannot take actions like changing the locks or removing items that belong to the person in residence until the Writ of Possession has been provided to you. Your lawyer will be able to advise you about the actions that you are allowed to take with regard to the property during each stage of the case.

Can I Seek Additional Damages?

If the property has been significantly damaged by the party who was in residence without permission, or you have extensive cleaning costs associated with regaining control of the property, you might be able to seek these damages during the unlawful detainer case. However, in many cases, the parties who undertake the actions of remaining in residence at a property they are not renting typically do not have the resources to pay for these kinds of costs.

While the main goal of an unlawful detainer action is to remove the party from your property, there is the opportunity, in some cases, to be able to pursue this person for damages as well. The team at Lopez Law Group will be able to advise you about the likelihood that you will be able to secure these damages. We have years of experience working on these cases, and we are aware of the strategies that can help to secure additional awards for our clients.

Clients are always advised about the best route to take in their unique case because we look at all the facts before we offer advice. You can trust us for personalized and attentive guidance that takes into consideration all the variables of each unique case. If we believe that damages can be secured to help cover the cost of repairs and cleaning, we will be happy to seek these added awards on your behalf.

Unlawful Detainer Possession Actions Law for Landlords in Florida

Can I Avoid the Legal Process?

It can be expensive to remove someone from your property who should no longer be in residence once the legal tenant has left. If you think that you might be able to establish a rental agreement with the current resident, you could offer this option to that party. You could also work with the team at Lopez Law Group to draft a letter warning the resident of the legal action that will be taken against them and informing them of the various laws that require that they quit the premises.

Many people who remain in residence at a property once the renter named on the agreement leaves believe that their monetary contributions to care of the property and rent entitle them to remain on the property. You can sometimes explain to them that this is not a legally-binding action on their part and that they can be removed if they are unwilling to start paying rent on their own.

The team at Lopez Law Group has years of experience in these kinds of cases and can work with you to draft a letter that informs an unwanted resident of their options. You might be able to get a resident to remove simply by explaining the situation to them with the help of a legal expert. Avoid going to the property and attempting to engage with the resident in person unless you believe that they will not threaten you. You can have the letter your lawyer has drafted delivered via certified mail or by a process server instead.

Unlawful Detainer Possession Actions Law for Landlords in Florida

What Can a Lawyer Do For You?

If you are struggling with removing an unwanted resident from your property, you will need to secure a skilled legal team to support your efforts to remove them. There are various possible remedies that you can seek in this kind of situation, but all of them are best handled by a skilled expert with experience in this kind of legal action. Taking matters into your own hands is never recommended, as this can lead to you getting in trouble with the law.

The team at Lopez Law Group will represent your case for unlawful detainer action with skill and attention to detail. Contact us today to find out how we can help you to remove an unwanted resident so that you can reclaim possession of your rental property.


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