Attention to Detail: Three Reasons It’s Essential to Get it Right When Evicting a Tenant

When it comes to evicting a tenant, it is absolutely essential to get all the details right. Making a mistake can cost time and money, or even lead to unwanted legal action. From paperwork to compliance with the letter of the law, this is one process where you really, really don’t want to make any mistakes. Read on to find out why.

1. Emotions are running high.

Eviction is a sensitive process. Whether you have a commercial tenant or a residential tenant, nobody is happy when they have to vacate a property where they spend a significant amount of time either personally or professionally. Emotions run high during an eviction, and even when you are completely justified and within your rights to evict your tenant, you may find that tenants look for any reason they can find to accuse you of wrongdoing. 

2. Mistakes can make the process take longer.

When you’re evicting a tenant, time is money. The more swiftly the eviction takes place, the sooner you will be able to find a new tenant for the property — and you can stop losing money! If you make mistakes with the notices, dates, or other details, the entire eviction can be thrown out, which means you will have to start the process over again from the beginning. That includes all the wait times!

3. Errors are EXPENSIVE!

Many landlords try to handle the eviction process themselves, without the help of an attorney. This is almost always a bad idea. Typically, the landlord will make a mistake of some sort, and hiring a lawyer to fix the mistake and carry out the eviction ends up being considerably more expensive than just partnering with a lawyer and getting it right from the start. Not to mention the money you lose if your tenant isn’t paying rent.

Partner with an experienced lawyer to minimize costs and evict your tenant swiftly.

At Atlas Law, we provide significant value to our clients through landlord advocacy. We invite you to rethink your relationship with your real estate attorney. We do not charge for client phone calls, client emails, or travel. We just charge a flat fee for evictions — that’s it. Are you ready to get started? If so, give us a call at (813) 241-8269. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Abandonment Explained

Unreturned phone calls, text messages without answers and, often, at least a month’s worth of unpaid rent. These are usually the tell-tale signs that your tenant has abandoned their rented property. It can be stressful and frustrating when a tenant disappears without notice before the tenancy has ended. Such a situation can also deal a blow to your finances – whether or not the tenant was behind with their payments. Under such circumstances, you may feel pressured to start looking for a new tenant right away.

When a tenant disappears for a prolonged period of time without informing their landlord, it may constitute a breach of the lease agreement and count as abandonment. However, before a landlord can change the locks and embark on a search for a new tenant, they need to find out whether the previous tenant has truly abandoned the property. Read on to learn what constitutes tenant abandonment in Florida and what your obligations as a landlord are if you’re ever faced with this issue.

What Constitutes Abandonment?

According to Florida law, a landlord can assume that a tenant has abandoned the property if:

  • the tenant has been absent for longer than half the time of periodic rental payment
  • the rent is not current (or, in other words, the rent is due)
  • the tenant has not notified the landlord about their prolonged absence

It should be noted that this criteria is established pursuant to Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes, so if you are a landlord renting a lot to a tenant in a manufactured home community, this abandonment provision would not apply to you.   

Landlord’s Obligation in Case of Abandonment

Provided that the conditions mentioned above are met, a landlord can then take actions to minimize financial losses by re-renting the property. A landlord may enter the abandoned property to perform any necessary improvements and repairs. The landlord may also change the locks and collect the old tenant’s belongings. 

Importantly, however, according to Florida law, a landlord may not simply dispose of the old tenant’s property without first attempting to reach the tenant. The landlord would have to provide the tenant with written notice and an opportunity to recover the abandoned property. A tenant has 10-15 days to retrieve property, depending on how the notice is delivered to the tenant. After that period, the landlord may dispose of, retain, or resell the property.

If the value of the property left behind by the former tenant is worth at least $500.00, a special procedure must be followed. Specifically, the property must be sold at public sale by competitive bidding. The sale must be advertised in a newspaper of general circulation for at least two weeks and take place at least 10 days after the initial publication. 

Importantly, the landlord cannot retain the full amount of proceeds from such sale. Rather, after deducting any costs related to the storage, advertisement, sale, etc., the remaining proceeds must be returned to the former tenant. If attempts to contact the tenant prove to be unfruitful, the proceeds must go to the clerk of court in the county where the property was abandoned.

As shown above, dealing with an issue related to a troublesome tenant can be more complicated than it initially seems. In order to avoid any legal liability, a landlord is usually required to follow statutory procedures. That is why before taking any action regarding a tenant, it is better to first consult an experienced attorney. If you have any questions with regard to a matter related to your tenant, please contact Atlas Law – a landlord’s advocate.

Understanding the Appeals Process in an Eviction Case

Facing an eviction order can be scary – especially if you feel that the decision the court has made is unfair and unjustified. Thankfully, Florida state law provides a way for you to fight the unjustified denial of an eviction by appealing the judgment in your eviction case. In this article, we will briefly walk you through the appeals process in Florida.

It is important to note that you can only file for an appeal after the final judgment was made in the eviction case. If you don’t agree with the judge’s decision in your case and you think that procedural errors have been committed in the first trial, you may have a good reason to file an appeal.

A landlord has 30 days from the date the eviction order was given to file an appeal by presenting the court with the required documents. The steps you must take in order for the appeals to be properly filed and recognized by the court include:

  • Notice of Appeal – The appellant must first file the notice of appeal with the appropriate appeals court (typically the court in which the final judgment was rendered). In addition, a filing fee of up to $300 must be paid.
  • Preparation of the Record – While the record is prepared by the clerk of the court, the appellant must ensure that the record contains all the records and documents they deem necessary to be included. The appellant will usually have 10 days to communicate their instructions to the clerk of the court.  This usually includes the additional of any trial transcripts, affidavits, or depositions that were taken as part of the original proceeding.
  • Docketing Statements and/or Disclosures – These include important information about the appeal such as the details of the initial judgment, parties involved, and attorneys who represent them.
  • Appellate Briefs – In appellate briefs, the parties present their arguments. Briefs are extremely important since the appellate court’s judgment will be based primarily on the information presented in the briefs. Unlike the original action, there is no trial.  No additional or new evidence is heard by the appellate court, as the purpose of the appeal is to argue that there was a procedural problem that occurred during the original eviction proceeding. The appealing party is responsible for presenting the initial brief. Once the initial brief is filed by the appealing party, the respondent will file the answer brief whose purpose is to defend the decision that was taken at the initial hearing. The appellant will have the chance to counter these arguments in the reply brief.

Appellate Proceedings

Once all the formal requirements pertaining to filing an appeal have been met, appellate proceedings may be initiated. Importantly, during an appeal, the appellate court will not consider new evidence or re-try the case. Rather, the purpose of the appeal is to find out if legal or procedural mistakes were committed at the initial hearing.

Some appeals may involve the oral argument in which parties appear before the court to present their position orally. The judges often takes advantage of this to ask additional questions to both the appellant and the respondent. The appellate court’s decision isn’t announced during the oral argument. Rather, the decision is issued in the written form after oral argument has been heard.  It is not uncommon for an appellate court to issue an opinion months after the oral argument occurs.

Landlords who lost their initial eviction hearing should be aware that filing an appeal on eviction judgment isn’t a DIY project. Moreover, it may be more cost effective to file a new eviction action instead of going through the appeals process.  Closely cooperating with an eviction lawyer with experience in real estate litigation will be crucial to the success of the appeal. Atlas Law attorneys have successfully represented the interests of landlords, including handling of appellate matters. If you are facing a court decision that you feel is unfair, please contact us immediately to take advantage of important protections our office can offer you.

Mobile Home Management: 3 Tips to Handle an Eviction

Affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues American society is facing today. Prices of traditional housing units have been rising steadily over the last few years, making many American families pursue less expensive accommodation options. With a price of $90,000 for a unit, there is little wonder why mobile homes are one of the fastest-growing housing options in the U.S. It is estimated that about 18 million Americans currently live in some form of manufactured housing.

If you are an owner of the residential property and manage a home for rent, you may be interested in expanding your portfolio to add mobile homes. As a mobile home manager and landlord, you need to know that there are specific statutes in Florida housing law that regulate the relationship between a landlord and a tenant renting a lot in a mobile home community. In this article, we will provide an overview of the laws and regulations that a landlord must adhere to in handling an eviction situation.

Only Evict for Lawful Reasons

A landlord must only initiate eviction proceedings if a legally valid reason for it exists. Among the reasons mentioned by Florida laws are:

  • Non-payment of lot rent and utilities
  • Change in the land use
  • Violation of the property rules
  • Violation of the lease agreement

Trying to evict a tenant for other reasons may be illegal and make a landlord liable for breaking the law. In order to protect themselves, a tenant may sue the landlord for trespassing, unlawful eviction, or intentional infliction of emotional distress and claim financial compensation.

Follow the Proper Eviction Procedure

Before taking any action, a landlord must notify a tenant about the termination of the lease and provide a reason for it.

  • If the reason is a non-payment of rent, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 5-day notice.
  • For violations of federal, state, or local laws related to health, safety, and welfare of other residents, a tenant must be given 7 days to move.
  • In the case of a change in the land use, mobile home owners must be notified 6 months in advance.
  • For a severe violation of property laws, a landlord must serve a tenant with a 7-day notice.
  • In the case of minor violations, a tenant will be given 7 days to correct the issue. If a tenant then repeats the same violation within the next 12 months, he or she will be given 30 days to move.

If a tenant doesn’t vacate the property within the period mentioned in the written notice, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit. If the tenant loses the lawsuit, a judge will authorize the clerk of court to issue a writ of possession that is served to the tenant by the sheriff. The writ of possession cannot issue until 10 days have passed after the court’s final judgment.  Service of the writ by the sheriff will occur by the sheriff taping the writ to the door of the mobile home in question. Importantly, it is then the sheriff and not the landlord who can forcibly move tenant from the property.

Avoid Self-Help Eviction

Self-help eviction is a term describing practices a landlord may try to take to intimidate or threaten a tenant into leaving the property. Self-help eviction is unlawful and may put a landlord in the position of legal liability. Some of the illegal self-help eviction actions are:

  • turning off utilities to the lot
  • threatening or intimidating a tenant
  • forcibly entering a tenant’s property
  • forcibly moving a tenant’s mobile home

Dealing with a Troublesome Mobile Home Owner? Contact Atlas Law

We are attorneys at law practicing Tampa, Florida, and we have an ample experience in advising and representing our clients in eviction cases in Florida. If you are dealing with issues such as a non-payment of rent, extremely late payments, lease agreement violations, and more – do not hesitate to contact us. We will help you make sure your rights and interest are protected and that you stay free of liability when you initiate eviction proceedings.

Common Eviction Costs and How to Reduce Them

A troublesome tenant may cost you money and your good reputation as a landlord. Dealing with them may also cause you a lot of unnecessary stress and consume time. In some situations – like non-payment of rent, extremely late payments, or breach of lease agreement – eviction may seem like the only viable solution to your tenant problems. Before you decide to take this serious legal step, however, you must be aware of the costs related to the eviction process. In this blog, we explore common expenses a landlord must be prepared to bear before, during, and after the eviction. We also tackle the question if it is possible to reduce the eviction costs.

Fees Related to Serving & Filing

As we mentioned in our August blog, each eviction must closely follow a process delineated by both state and county laws. Such laws state, for example, that before initiating any action to evict a tenant, they must be served a notice of eviction. If you’d like a professional to prepare such notice for you, this will likely be the first cost you’ll have to bear with relation to an eviction.

The notice must be then served to the tenant. Again, while you may choose to do that yourself, many prefer to have a third party – for example, a process server – deliver the notice. This solution is called civil processing and its advantage is that it creates an official record of the delivery. However, you must be prepared to pay a fee for it.

After the notice has been delivered and before you can move forward with the eviction, you need to file important paperwork – such as a Summons and a Complaint for Eviction and Damages – with your local or district court. At this stage, you will need to pay filing and processing fees. In Florida, these fees will cost you about $250, with increasing costs if there is more than one tenant.

Court Costs and Legal Fees

In addition to the initial paperwork that you file with the court, you will likely be required to file additional documents at every stage of the eviction. The costs of legal proceedings can quickly add up, especially if the eviction is contested by the tenant. Such expenses may relate to a court review of your case, the discovery process, and a jury trial. Depending on the circumstances, all such expenses may easily reach a few hundred, and sometimes thousands of dollars.

Attorney Fees

Due to the complexity of your eviction case, or simply for your peace of mind, you may require the assistance of an eviction attorney. There are different ways in which lawyers may charge you for their services. Some use a flat-rate package that includes the preparation of the needed documents and a number of court appearances. Others charge for their work according to their billable hourly rate. If your eviction case is contested and a hearing is necessary, attorney fees will likely be higher.

Other Eviction Related Costs

If the court approves of the eviction, or if you win your eviction case, you must be prepared for the cost of enforcing the eviction. For example, you will have to pay a fee service of the Writ of Possession in the amount of $90. After the actual, physical eviction has taken place, you will likely have to clean or even renovate your property, which will entail additional costs.

How to Reduce Eviction Costs

Most of the costs and fees mentioned above are mandatory and therefore impossible to avoid if you’re evicting a tenant. However, according to Florida Statutes, as a prevailing party in an eviction lawsuit, you are entitled to recover court costs and attorney fees from the losing party.

Nevertheless, the best way to reduce eviction costs is to avoid evictions altogether by investing money in better tenant-screening. While there are no guarantees, choosing tenants with a good credit score, solid references, and a professional tenant application will be less likely to give you lawful reasons for eviction.

Atlas Law – Trusted Florida Eviction Lawyers

At times, though, eviction may be necessary. If you are losing money or your good reputation as a landlord due to a troublesome tenant, contact Atlas Law. We are Florida attorneys who specialize in finding innovative solutions to complex eviction cases. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to talk about the details of your eviction case.

Is it Time? How to Determine When to Move Forward with Eviction

Eviction can be a messy and costly process. That’s why few landlords, if any, would rush with a decision to evict a tenant even if the relationship they have is far from perfect. Additionally, evicting a tenant for personal or unlawful reasons may warrant a retaliatory legal action initiated by the tenant. Even if a landlord feels like they have all the reason to proceed with the eviction, a threat of a lawsuit may make them think twice before going through with it.

Nevertheless, a troublesome tenant can negatively influence a landlord’s reputation, cause financial losses, and even become a threat to other occupants of the building. If you are a landlord, you should be aware that the law protects your rights and offers a framework for lawful evictions of extremely troublesome tenants. In our August blog, we offered some suggestions on how to stay out of legal trouble when evicting a tenant. This month, we will explore some reasons why eviction may actually be the only way to solve problems in a building that you own.

Tenant Repeatedly Failed to Pay Rent and Accumulated Debt

Most landlords are reasonable when faced with a tenant who has encountered a financial struggle and is unable to pay rent for a month or makes the payment a little late. Many such issues can be resolved thanks to good will shown by both parties. However, a repeated, unapologetic non-payment of rent is a lease violation and a financial hazard that few landlords can and are willing to afford. A landlord must remember, however, that they are obliged to deliver an eviction notice to the tenant with a 3 or 5-day notice period (depending on the property) before initiating further action.

Tenant Caused Major Damage to the Property

Normal wear and tear is not a lawful reason to initiate an eviction. However, intentional and extensive damage to the property can negatively influence its value and entail financial losses to the landlord, at the very least those related to repair costs. Similarly, a tenant cannot make significant changes or repairs to the property without a landlord’s permission or if such changes are not covered in the lease agreement. Both damaging the property and making illegal changes may constitute a lease violation, and are good reasons to start an eviction. However, if a tenant commits to repairing the damage and actually makes the repairs, the reason may cease to be valid.

Tenant Engages in Illegal Use of the Property

Illegal use of the property may entail engaging in some illegal activity on the property, but it can also mean using the property for business purposes even if the business itself is legal. If the property you are renting is residential, operating a business or commercial activities out of it may be illegal. Before taking eviction action on the basis of this reason, it is best to consult all the details and circumstances involved with an eviction attorney.

Ready to Evict a Tenant? Seek Legal Advice First

Taking care of all the legal aspects of an eviction may be stressful, but it’s even more nerve-wracking if the matter ends up in court. That’s why before taking this drastic step, you should make sure you have a trusted legal professional at your side. At Atlas Law, our attorneys have ample experience in handling complicated eviction cases. We will gladly help you make sure you stay out of trouble while protecting your property and financial interests. Contact us without delay to discuss your legal options.

How to Stay Out of Legal Trouble While Evicting a Tenant

When faced with a tenant who repeatedly fails to pay rent or frequently violates the rental agreement in some other way, a landlord may feel the only way to deal with this problem is to evict the tenant. However, the decision to evict a troublesome tenant should not be taken lightly. The eviction process can be long and costly and cause a landlord a lot of stress. In addition, Florida – like other states – has very specific laws that govern the process. By failing to adhere to these laws, a landlord may run the risk of a countersuit and suffer additional financial losses. In this blog, we will discuss 5 things that landlords must absolutely avoid in order to stay out of legal trouble while evicting a tenant in Florida.

Evicting a Tenant for Unlawful Reasons

Eviction may only take place if there are solid reasons for it. These reasons are clearly defined by the law and they include:

  • non-payment of rent or extremely late payments
  • violation of the lease or rental agreement
  • destruction of property
  • disturbing the neighbors in a way which constitutes a breach of peace
  • engaging in unlawful activities on the premises (such as selling drugs)

Trying to evict a tenant on grounds other then these may be considered unlawful and results in nothing more than an unnecessary legal battle with little chance of success. If a landlord isn’t sure if they have a valid reason for eviction, it will be best to contact an eviction lawyer for a consultation.

Trying to Evict by Extralegal Means

Even when there are serious and lawful reasons for eviction, a landlord must refrain from trying to evict a tenant by themselves. They must also avoid any actions aiming to force the tenant out of the premises, whether by the use of physical strength or strategies such as such as changing locks, turning off utilities, or communicating threats. All such actions are unlawful and may result in the tenant filing civil charges against the landlord.

Failure to Deliver the Eviction Notice

For an eviction to be lawful, a landlord must follow all the procedures stipulated by the law. Florida requires a landlord to write an eviction notice and serve it – or in other ways, personally deliver it – to the tenant. After that, the landlord must let a certain amount of time pass before they can proceed with the process.

If the reason for the eviction is a failure to pay rent, the notice period is three or five days, depending on the type of property that is being rented. In the case of a violation of the lease and rental agreement, a landlord must usually give the tenant 7 days to cure, or correct, the violation. If the rent is paid or the violation corrected within the stipulated period, the landlord cannot proceed with the eviction.

It is equally important to note that the notice must contain no errors or mistakes. If some information on the notice is lacking or incorrect, the landlord must fix it, serve the notice again, and wait for the stipulated period to pass before taking the next step in the eviction process.

Violating the Fair Housing Act

According to the Fair Housing Act – a federal anti-discriminatory law that has also been adopted by the state of Florida – it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on factors such as race, religion, gender, national origin, familial status, and disability. Any eviction action based on such characteristics would be unlawful and invalid.

Forgetting Tenants Can Fight an Eviction

Tenants in Florida have the right to contest the eviction process if they feel their rights have been violated. In order to avoid costly legal proceedings or civil charges, it is usually best for a landlord to consult a lawyer before starting the eviction proceedings.

Atlas Law provides landlords with comprehensive legal assistance and innovative solutions in difficult eviction cases and other landlord/tenant litigation matters. If you are a landlord and are facing challenges related to a troublesome tenant, do not hesitate to contact us. We will schedule a consultation with you in order to understand your circumstances and provide advice with regards to your legal options.

 

An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Jurisdiction in Eviction Cases

The word “jurisdiction” gets thrown around a lot in just about every legal discussion, but what does it really mean? And, when it comes to eviction cases, why is it important? Here’s a brief but easy to understand guide on the definition of jurisdiction and why it matters in all cases, especially eviction cases.

Overall, jurisdiction is the right of an entity to make laws and judgments for people and corporations living within the control of the entity. In our system of government, there are multiple layers of jurisdictions. For example, starting at one of the lowest levels, a city is a jurisdiction in that the city is allowed to make laws governing the citizens who live within the city. Counties and states are jurisdictions for residents within their boundaries, just like the United States is for all of its citizens.

In legal cases, jurisdiction is extremely important because this will determine what laws are applicable to a particular person, a piece of property, or court action. A familiar example of this is the debate over whether a piece of property is located within the jurisdiction of the city or of the county. If the city has different laws regarding usage of property than the county, it is extremely important to determine in which jurisdiction the property is located so the appropriate law can be applied to the issue.

Eviction cases are an excellent example of where jurisdiction plays a major role in both the expense of bringing the case and the potential outcome. This is because eviction laws are occasionally set by the local governmental entity—that is, either the city or the county in which the property is located. Evictions must be heard in the jurisdiction in which the property is located.

You see where this is going, right? That means that if you have multiple properties across multiple jurisdictions with a legal issue, you cannot consolidate them or have them all heard in one place. And, if that’s not enough, some jurisdictions have some rules for landlord-tenant situations that could be different than a neighboring jurisdiction. For example, one jurisdiction may require mediation prior to entry of a final judgment, while other jurisdictions may allow you to bypass mediation.

Since you cannot clone yourself to attend all of these hearings or learn all of the different laws applicable in the different jurisdictions, you would need to hire multiple lawyers and law firms, (one from each jurisdiction!) to be able to advise you as to that particular jurisdiction’s rules.

It does not have to be this way. Attorney Brian Chase with Atlas Law provides legal services for landlords in all counties in Florida. Atlas Law offers a “one-stop shop” for clients ranging from those with multiple properties in multiple jurisdictions to small clients with one or two properties in one or two jurisdictions. Atlas Law can advise you no matter the jurisdiction within Florida and can provide representation in tenant situations as needed. Contact us today to get started.   

Avoid Evictions by Vetting Tenants: 5 Steps to Reduce Evictions

A great way to avoid evictions is to do some work on the front end to secure quality tenants who will pay on time and not destroy your property. This is not as daunting of a task as it might seem, however. It just requires that you take some time to outline and prioritize in the beginning and then put a screening process in place.

1) Require an application from your prospective tenant. At a minimum, a rental application will give you information about your tenant, including the name of their employer, salary, prior landlord, and reason for leaving (if applicable), and the names of any other occupants who might be inhabiting the premises. You can ask if they have ever filed for bankruptcy or have criminal convictions. You can also find out if they have pets, what kinds, and sizes.

2) Insist on a “no blanks” policy. One easy way to screen prospective tenants is to require that they complete all portions of the application. Of course, it should be clearly indicated on the application that all blanks must be completed or the application will not be considered. Provided the prospective tenant knows this, if they leave any portion of the application blank, you are free to discard the application.

3) Run a background check – but get consent first! As a landlord, you are allowed to run a background check on a prospective tenant to confirm what they have told you and to ensure that there are no surprises such as convictions or bankruptcies that they may have conveniently forgotten to include. In Florida, however, you cannot run a background check on an applicant unless they consent to the background check first. The best way to do this is to include a provision in the rental application indicating that a background check may be run and to have the applicant sign to give their consent. This consent should also cover credit report checks since a regular background check may not cover credit reporting agencies.

4) Charge an application fee. Florida law allows you to charge an application fee and does not limit the amount that can be charged. However, the conventional wisdom is to only charge a fee that would be no more than a normal expense. Normally, the application fee is non-refundable presumably because you will be using at least some of the money to run the background checks. You can make the fee refundable if you would like, but if you do make it non-refundable, make sure that this is stated clearly in the rental application. Also note that application fees and deposits cannot be commingled in one account. They must be kept separate.

5) Be consistent and unbiased. Your screening process, including the rental application, and application of your requirements for acceptable tenants should be applied consistently and fairly to all prospective tenants. The federal Fair Housing Act mandates that there should be no questions or screening criteria that discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, and children. Do not make exceptions to your rules for prospective tenants. If you require tenants to have a 600 or higher credit score, then keep to that requirement. You get into trouble when you apply your rules unevenly.

Screening tenants, preparing rental agreements, and running background checks can be time-consuming especially for landlords with multiple properties, or who have other primary occupations. If you are a landlord and want to have your tenant screening done right, including a well-crafted rental agreement and selection criteria, contact Atlas Law. We can help draft your standard rental agreement, determine appropriate criteria for tenants, and assist with overall screening. Contact us today to get started.

Where to Start with the Eviction Process

As a landlord, the process of removing a tenant from your property (aka eviction) is governed by numerous rules and regulations which are designed to protect the tenant from being improperly evicted as well as the right of the landlord to lawfully remove tenants. The burden in the eviction process, however, is on the landlord and so it is critical to understand how the process works.

1) Are there proper grounds for evicting the tenant? Failure to pay rent is a prime example of a legitimate ground for eviction. Other grounds include where a person who is not listed on the rental agreement is found to be living on the premises, violation of the no-pets policy if there is one, and the tenant(s) are engaging in certain crimes such as selling drugs that threaten the living environment of other tenants. Improper grounds for eviction include evicting the tenant because they reported problems with the leased premises, and as a result, the tenant withholds payment due to identified and legitimate problems with the premises. Of course, eviction on the grounds of gender, race, religion, or disability, and other protected characteristics is absolutely prohibited.

2) Ensure that you as the landlord are in compliance. If there are code violations or other problems with the property, and those problems especially impact the tenant you are seeking to evict, it is best to get the code violations and other problems fixed prior to instigating the eviction. In some cases, the tenant’s failure to pay rent is directly due to the code violations or significant problems such as lack of heat or water. A landlord who attempts to evict on the grounds of non-payment who then turns out to be violating their own obligations under the lease will not likely get the relief they are seeking. Ensure that there are no grounds for the tenant to argue back that the eviction is improper due to the living conditions you are providing.

3) Let the tenant know there is a problem. Documentation is a big part of any eviction process, including that the violation occurred and that the tenant was notified of the problem. It is entirely possible to resolve the situation before the eviction process even gets started by notifying the tenant of the problem and giving them an opportunity to fix it. In fact, your lease may require that you give this notice and opportunity to cure the problem before escalating the matter to the court system. In the letter, identify the problem, point out the specific provision of the lease that is being violated, and give the tenant a certain amount of time to fix the problem. Send the letter via certified mail return receipt requested to be able to prove later on that the tenant received the letter, especially if nothing happens or is fixed in the time period given.

4) Consider meeting with an attorney who practices in the area of tenant law. Before heading into the eviction process, you should bring your concerns to an attorney who is well-versed in tenant law and evictions. An eviction attorney can review your documentation, your lease, and your evidence to determine if there are any potential problems or hindrances to a smooth eviction process.

Attorney Brian Chase has the extensive experience and knowledge of Florida landlord/tenant law that can cut landlords’ costs and court time. If you are looking to evict a tenant, contact Brian Chase for a consultation to learn your rights and responsibilities. Let’s make sure that you have all that you need to ensure a smooth eviction. We handle cases all over the state of Florida.