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.