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Florida Evictions 101

Unfortunately, Florida is a breeding ground for evictions.

One of the most common situations in which evictions arise is when a tenant falls behind or stops paying rent. When this occurs, the landlord’s first and proper step should be to contact the tenant about this and document your actions. This is a critical step in beginning the process for legal eviction proceedings. The owner should be prepared for a popular defense of non-payment: The tenant may say that the rental unit was sub-par and that this is a reasonable cause for non-payment. With a proper lease agreement in place, that defense would be fruitless for the non-paying tenant,

Another usual stimulant for eviction is nuisance tenants. Landlords have a right to evict tenants on the grounds of nuisance as long as the agreement includes a nuisance clause. In this context, a nuisance is defined as behavior that continuously disturbs the peace and results in police visits. The line in the sand here is that tenants have a right to occupy a rental unit in any way they want, as long as it does not disturb the peace or violate federal, state, and local laws.

Myths About Evictions

The tenant does not have to pay rent because the property is in foreclosure. This is a common misconception. The filing of a foreclosure suit does not take the property ownership away from the landlord. The landlord is still the owner of the property. As such, the owner is still responsible for paying taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees. On the other end of the spectrum, the landlord still has a right to collect rent and the tenant is still required to pay it.

Suing the tenant for unpaid rent and damages will lengthen the eviction process. In Florida, the landlord can choose to sue for possession only, even if the tenants owe several months of rent. This is referred to as Count I of the eviction process. A landlord can also sue for Count II, asking for unpaid rental fees and damages. Some landlords are under the misconception that an Count II eviction will take them longer to get possession of their property. This is not true because both counts are treated separately! After an eviction complaint is filed, the tenant has 5 business days to respond to Count I, and 20 calendar days to respond to Count II. Often times, the owner will regain possession of the property well before a decision is made in regards to Count II. In fact, most attorneys will advise clients to seriously consider filing Count II, especially if there is a strong indication that the tenant could have afforded to make payment all along, but chose not to for other reasons.

Please contact us, your West Palm Beach eviction attorney for more information on this and any other concern regarding closings and real estate law.

The Law Office of Donna Hearne-Gousse

(561) 582-5670

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