Unpaid Rent Eviction
Serving You and The State of Florida
Occupying a rental property comes with various responsibilities as outlined in a contractual agreement. Some of these responsibilities include essential maintenance of the living area, respectful behavior toward neighbors, and paying rent.
Property owners or management groups acting as landlords have the right to evict tenants under specific circumstances after they have made attempts to resolve the issue through other channels. One of the most frequent causes for eviction is a failure to pay rent.
Coping with an eviction can be difficult for both individuals and families living in rental properties. If you receive notice of a potential eviction or anticipate an eviction due to financial reasons, there are several ways you can prepare:
- Review your rights and consider contacting your landlord to see if there are any other options. Consider contacting a St. Petersburg landlord attorney to evaluate your options.
- Prepare accordingly and let your landlord know if you might need additional time to vacate the premises (individuals with disabilities or insufficient access to moving assistance may consider requesting more time)
- Locate a storage facility or reach out to family members and friends to inquire about storing your personal belongings until you can secure a new place to live
- Ask for support and contact your local government agencies to see if you qualify for any financial or logistical support
Preparing for an inevitable eviction ahead of time will make the transition easier to navigate and may assist with establishing additional support systems so that moving is no longer required.
Tenant And Landlord Rights
Both the landlord and the tenants have management and occupancy rights outlined by the rental agreement and Florida state law. The tenants have a right to an accessible, habitable environment that is free from excessive safety concerns or unwarranted harassment by property managers. Landlords maintain the right to uphold their contractual agreements with tenants and preserve their business interests by taking appropriate actions in response to resident behavior.
If a tenant is unable to abide by their contract, it is possible for a landlord or property manager to intervene so long as it is done through the proper channels. Often, this is in the form of one or more written warnings prior to seeking legal counsel. Any written warnings issued by the landlord may be considered as evidence of prior attempts for resolution in a case against the tenant.
What Happens If I Don’t Pay My Rent?
If a tenant fails to pay their agreed upon rent on time, they may accrue late fees as outlined in their rental agreement. If rent is due by the first of the month, for example, a landlord may permit ten to fifteen days to remit payment before applying a late fee. If the payment continues to remain outstanding, a landlord may issue a written eviction notice. In the state of Florida, a landlord can provide a three-day notice to either remit payment or vacate the premises.
A three-day written notice should contain a statement that outlines the reason for the eviction, as well as the landlord’s contact information for any questions or follow-up conversations. The statement, provided by the Florida state law and as referenced in Florida statutes 83.56, must be included as written:
“You are hereby notified that you are indebted to me in the sum of ____ dollars for the rent and use of the premises (address of leased premises, including county), Florida, now occupied by you and that I demand payment of the rent or possession of the premises within three days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) from the date of delivery of this notice to wit: on or before the ___ day of ___, (year).
(landlord’s name, address, and phone number)”
Landlords should also include the date of the written notice, a warning that legal action may be taken if past due payment is not received, and a brief statement about how the notice is provided to the tenant (whether through US mail or handing it directly to the resident). Property managers have several options for providing notices to tenants:
- Send a copy of the notice through standard, registered, or certified mail. If mail is the most accessible option, consider requesting a receipt of delivery.
- Hand the notice directly to the resident.
- Leave the notice in a visible or unavoidable place such as taped to a resident’s door, added to their residential mailbox, or secured to their doorknob.
A three-day notice will not be considered active until the resident has secured possession of the statement. If the landlord cannot confirm receipt or does not place the notice in a conspicuous place for the tenant to collect, the process must restart.
How Does An Eviction Work?
If a tenant pays their rent in the three-day period once the landlord has provided a notice, the eviction process will end. If the tenant continues to withhold rent in the future, the landlord can restart the process and issue another three-day notice. If a tenant instead decides to vacate the premises within the three-day period, the landlord has the right to keep the security deposit and use it to cover any maintenance or repair charges. However, if the security deposit is insufficient for the cost of those expenses, the landlord may sue the tenant for damages or the rent still owed.
As is standard practice in many states across the country, there are specific procedures a landlord must adhere to in order to evict a tenant if they fail to remit payment within the three-day period. The process for a proper eviction is:
- The landlord issues a written notice to vacate the property, explaining the reason for their eviction
- The tenant is served with legal paperwork by a sheriff or other process server
- The tenant either responds to the complaint or is issued a default judgment in favor of the landlord
- If the tenant responds to the complaint, a court date is set, and a hearing will take place
- If the landlord prevails in the case, the tenant will be evicted
Once a final eviction notice is issued by the courts, a tenant usually has 24 hours to vacate the premises. If the tenant refuses or fails leave the rental property, the landlord or a sheriff can forcibly remove them from the home and change the locks or padlock the door. Any personal belongings remaining inside may be held until the past-due rent is paid in full.
Can I Avoid Being Evicted?
If you received a three-day notice but are unable to pay rent, contact your landlord or leasing office as soon as possible. Depending on your contract and your relationship with the property managers, you may be able to settle on a solution that meets your needs. If you are in need of rent assistance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development may be able to provide some resources to assist.
What Constitutes An Illegal Eviction?
Regardless of whether a tenant fails to issue a payment, landlords are required to act within Florida state law to address the issue. It would be illegal for a landlord to force eviction by pursuing “self-help” practices such as:
- Shutting off utilities (gas, electric, or water)
- Changing or removing the locks on your residence
- Removing windows or doors to the home
- Harassing you over the phone or by repeatedly visiting your rental property
- Claiming you broke the lease agreement or falsifying the cause for eviction
If you feel as though a landlord may be attempting to evict you without just cause, or if they become particularly aggressive in their harassment, contact local authorities for immediate resolution. Consider consulting with an attorney to evaluate whether you are entitled to damages.
What Does An Eviction Do To My Record?
If you are evicted from your rental property, future potential landlords can see this on your credit report and rental history when they screen your application for new living arrangements. Most often, this eviction record will remain visible in your history for seven years. You can request a credit report to verify any existing evictions currently appearing on your record. If there is an eviction listed on your record that appears to be inaccurate, you can reach out to the screening company to file a dispute.
When applying to a new rental property, be upfront and honest with the landlords about any prior evictions that might be on your record. Occasionally, landlords will hold less judgment against someone who is willing to disclose this information voluntarily before the background screening process begins.
If you are a landlord, be sure to process tenant applications through the proper background screening procedures to decrease your risks of unpaid rent. If an applicant demonstrates a history of evictions or maintains poor credit, they may not be the best resident for long-term rental properties. Using a tenant background check is critical to ensuring that your residents are likely to keep up with their payments.
Because evictions are processed through the courts, a formal eviction proceeding will be a public record as kept by the court. In order to remove this from your record, you would need to have it expunged. This would mean settling any remaining debts or proving additional circumstances that would warrant the change. Consult with an attorney to see if this might be possible for you.
What Should I Do If I Receive A Complaint?
If you are served with an order to vacate the premises after failing to remit payment within the specified timeline, you should contact a lawyer immediately. You will have five business days to respond to the complaint by filing an answer with the Clerk of Court. Any arguments against the eviction notice should be provided in writing, and a copy should be issued to the landlord or property manager. If you do not issue a response or provide a written answer to the Clerk of Courts, the landlord may obtain a default judgment against you for failure to respond to the complaint.
Applying as a renter for another property following an eviction can be a difficult challenge for many individuals. If you’re anticipating an eviction, it can be beneficial to relocate prior to the formal process beginning. If possible, attempt to work things out with the landlord and settle your debts before they pursue legal action. If you agree to leave the property in good condition and leave without causing trouble, they may be willing to work with you.
Contact A Skilled Attorney To Assist With Your Eviction Needs
If you have a tenant and need them to be evicted, Florida requires that you do it the right way. It is imperative that you give the correct notice and do not resort to self-help practices to remove a tenant. We can assist with drafting the eviction documents and can stand with you throughout the eviction process to ensure the tenants are ousted from your property correctly.
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