FAQ for Residential Landlords About Eviction

FAQ – Residential Evictions in Florida – Landlord

Part II of Chapter 83, Florida Statutes governs residential tenancies and provides many specific obligations for both landlords and tenants. If you are a residential landlord or tenant, please contact the Fucillo Law Firm, P.L. at (727) 945-2862 to schedule a free consultation concerning your matter.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS BY LANDLORDS

My residential tenant is more than one month past due in the payment of the rent, what should I do?

Prior to filing a suit for eviction, Florida Statutes, §83.56, requires that a residential landlord serve a written three (3) day notice to the tenant demanding the tenant either pay the past due rent, or return possession of the property to the landlord. Sometimes a properly served three-day notice will be sufficient to prompt payment of the past due rent. However, tenants who have not paid multiple rental periods will often ignore this notice because they perceive their landlord as someone who is unwilling to enforce the lease terms. It is usually in the landlord’s best interest to pursue the eviction process before the tenant is late in multiple rent payments.

Service of the required three-day notice may also be governed by the specific terms of the written lease agreement that was entered by the parties. Failing to serve a proper three-day notice pursuant to Florida Statutes and the terms of the lease, may result in any subsequently filed suit for eviction being dismissed. Consequently, it is important to review not only Florida Statute §83.56, but also the specific lease terms to avoid any unnecessary expense and delay in the eviction process.

If a tenant fails to pay the past due rent, or return possession of the property pursuant to the three-day notice, the landlord’s statutory right to file a suit for eviction is established. Once a suit for eviction is filed and served, the tenant will have five (5) days to file a response under Florida’s summary proceedings regarding the issue of possession only.

Can I evict my residential tenant who is current in payment of the rent, but has breached other terms of the written lease agreement?

The short answer is yes, but each case is different and the specific facts of the breach along with the terms of the lease agreement should be evaluated to determine if an eviction is possible.

Prior to initiating this type of law suit, Florida Statute §83.56(2)(b), requires that a landlord serve a seven (7) day written notice to the tenant specifying what has been breached. If the breach is in the nature of something that the tenant can cure, (such as improper parking, unauthorized vehicles, guests, or pets), then an opportunity to cure the breach must also be given.

If the residential tenant fails, refuses, or only partially corrects the breach, a suit for eviction may then be possible. This area of residential landlord/tenant law can be confusing, therefore, consultation with a law firm knowledgeable of the subject is highly recommended. Please contact the Fucillo Law Firm, P.L. at (727) 945-2862 to schedule a free consultation.

Can I change the locks of my residential property if my tenant is delinquent in payment of the rent?

No, Florida law does not allow residential or commercial landlords to remove tenants through “self-help.” Additionally, a residential landlord may not directly or indirectly terminate or interrupt utility services such as water, electricity, heat, gas, elevator or garbage collection, regardless of whether the utility service is under the control of, or payment is being made by the landlord.

A residential eviction can only be commenced by properly serving a Three Day Notice and filing a complaint in court that is served to the tenant. By changing the locks and denying the tenant access to the property, the landlord is constructively evicting the tenant, and may be subject to a claim by the tenant for wrongful eviction.

The damages in a suit for wrongful eviction can include actual and consequential damages, or three (3) months’ rent, whichever is greater, costs and eviction attorney’s fees. The potential expense to a landlord from such a lawsuit is not worth the perceived reward of being able to quickly remove a tenant who is delinquent in payment of the rent.

What damages can I recover from my residential tenant who is delinquent in payment of the rent?

In general, a landlord is entitled to recover unpaid rent, costs, and under Florida Statute § 83.56, reasonable eviction attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. It is possible that a written residential lease may also provide for liquidated damages, as long as the liquidated amount does not exceed two months rent. § 83.595.

If the tenant surrenders the property, or the landlord obtains a writ of possession, the landlord then needs to either treat the rental agreement as terminated and retake possession of the property, or hold the tenant liable for the rent as it becomes due. If the latter is chosen, the landlord must make a good faith effort to re-let the property using the same means as in the initial rental.

If the property has been vacated by the tenant and only monetary damages are being sought, then the expedited summary procedure under Florida Statute § 51.011 is not available and the tenant will have twenty (20) days to respond to any complaint for monetary damages.

What damages can I recover if my residential tenant refuses to vacate after expiration of the written lease agreement?

Under Florida law, a tenant that remains in possession of the property without the landlord’s consent after the lease has terminated is considered a “holdover” tenant. Under Florida Statute § 83.58, a landlord may recover possession of the property and may also recover double the amount of rent due for the period during which the tenant refuses to surrender possession. Any landlord seeking such damages should first consult with an eviction attorney to ensure that the notice and complaint are properly drafted.

What can I do if I discover damage to my residential property after my tenant has vacated?

It is always advisable that a properly drafted lease agreement be entered to address in sufficient detail which party is responsible for maintenance, repairs and damage to the property.

For residential properties, Florida Statutes impose certain duties upon landlords and tenants that can only be modified or altered with respect to a single family or duplex residence. These duties are outlined in Florida Statutes, §83.51 and §83.52.
Both landlords and tenants are required to comply with applicable building, housing, and health codes.

In general, landlords must also maintain the structure in reasonable working condition, provide for the clean and safe condition of the common areas, and functioning heat, running water and hot water. Tenants must keep the property clean and sanitary, remove all garbage from the property and reasonably use and keep clean all appliances, and not destroy or damage the property. The specific duties of each party can vary depending upon the terms of the written lease and the type of residential property at issue.

If after the tenant vacates the property the landlord discovers damages that were caused by a tenant, the landlord can impose a claim on the tenant’s security deposit pursuant to Florida Statute §83.49(3). Failing to comply with this statute will result in the landlord forfeiting the right to impose a claim on the deposit.

Please contact the Fucillo Law Firm, P.L. at (727) 945-2862 to schedule a free consultation on your landlord/tenant questions. You can also visit our contact page here and provide additional information.