Are you a landlord in Florida? It can be complicated. Ideally, you will not have any problems getting tenants into—or out of—your property. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens. You may be wondering: What legal options do I have available if my tenant refuses to vacate the property in violation of the lease? The short answer is that you have the right to seek eviction and, potentially, recover double rent for the offending period. Here, our Coral Gables landlord rights attorney provides a more detailed overview of the most important things that you should know about your legal options if your tenant refuses to vacate in Florida.
Know Your Rights: You Can Evict a Tenant Who Should Not Be on the Property
As a residential or commercial landlord in Florida, it is imperative to be well-versed in your rights. First and foremost, it is important to emphasize the basics: Landlords can evict a tenant who has no right to be on their property. The basis for an eviction could include the following:
- The expiration of the lease;
- Non-payment of rent; and/or
- Violation of other lease terms.
The Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act governs the relationship between landlords and tenants. As a landlord, you have the right to regain possession of your property, but it is essential to follow the legal procedures set forth by Florida law.
Florida Prohibits Landlord Self-Help Evictions
While you do have the right to evict a tenant who should not be on the property, it is absolutely vital that you recognize that Florida prohibits landlords from taking eviction matters into their own hands. These are known broadly as “self-help” evictions. In other words, a landlord in Florida cannot forcibly remove a tenant, change the locks, shut off utilities, or take any other action to force the tenant out without going through the legal eviction process. Engaging in self-help eviction actions can lead to serious legal consequences—and it could make it harder to get back your property.
How to Prepare and Take Action to Evict a Tenant Who Refuses to Vacate
Are you ready to take action to evict a tenant in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida to remove a tenant that refuses to vacate your property? You need to take the proper steps to put yourself in the best position to navigate the eviction process in an efficient and effective manner. Remember, evicting a tenant in Florida requires a carefully executed set of steps to ensure compliance with the law. Here are seven steps to take to evict a tenant in Florida:
- Step 1: Ensure Valid Grounds for Eviction: Before proceeding, make sure that you have valid legal grounds for eviction, such as non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms, or expiration of the lease.
- Step 2: Provide Written Notice: Depending on the grounds for eviction, you must provide the tenant with a written notice. For non-payment of rent, a three-day notice is required, whereas other lease violations generally require a seven-day notice.
- Step 3: File an Eviction Lawsuit: If the tenant does not vacate the premises within the notice period, you must file a complaint for eviction with the county court. Ensure you have all necessary documents and evidence.
- Step 4: Attend the Court Hearing: Once you file the eviction lawsuit, a court date will likely be set. Be ready to attend the hearing. The best step that you can take is to hire an experienced Fort Lauderdale landlord-tenant attorney. Your lawyer will help present a strong case to finalize the eviction.
- Step 5: Obtain a Writ of Possession: If the court rules in your favor, the judge will issue a type of legal order called a final judgment for possession. That judgment is what you can use to get another legal document called a writ of possession. With a writ of possession, you have the authority to get the local sheriff to remove the tenant from your rental unit.
- Step 6: Coordinate with the Sheriff: After obtaining the writ of possession, you will then need to coordinate with the county sheriff’s office. In the vast majority of cases, the local sheriff will need to give a 24-hour notice on the property before they remove the tenant.
- Step 7: Regain Possession of Your Property: Once the sheriff has removed the tenant, you can legally regain possession of your property. When you have possession of your Florida rental unit back, you can determine what to do next.
Special Remedy for Landlords in Florida: Right to Seek Double Rent
Beyond having the right to take legal action to evict a tenant who simply refuses to vacate, Florida landlords also have an additional remedy available under the law. You can seek double rent for all of the period that the tenant refuses to vacate. Under Florida law (Florida Statute § 83.58), a tenant who continues to occupy the premises without the landlord’s permission after the expiration of the lease term can be charged double the amount of the rent due on the property.
Florida’s double rent provision is designed to compensate landlords for the financial loss and inconvenience caused by a tenant’s unlawful occupancy. To seek double rent, landlords must provide a written demand to the tenant specifying the double rent claim. If the tenant refuses to comply, landlords can initiate legal proceedings to recover the double rent. It is a special remedy that can be a significant deterrent for tenants who might consider overstaying their lease and an essential tool for landlords seeking to regain control of their property in a timely manner. However, it is crucial for landlords to understand and comply with the legal requirements of this process to ensure a successful claim. An experienced Fort Lauderdale landlord rights attorney can help.
Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Landlord Rights Attorney Today
At Jacqueline A. Salcines, PA, our Florida landlord-tenant attorney is a skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced advocate for clients. If you have any specific questions or concerns about your legal options if your tenant refuses to vacate, we are more than ready to help. Call us at 305-669-5280 or contact us online for a strictly confidential, no-obligation consultation. With an office in Coral Gables, we represent residential and commercial landlords throughout South Florida.