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Tenant Eviction – What Landlords Need to Know

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Despite all precautions landlords take when looking for people to live in their rentals, some still get stuck with less than perfect tenants. They have to deal with tenants who do not pay their rent, break the rules, or worse, cause significant property damage or conduct criminal activity on the premises. Landlords do not have to suffer these types of nightmare situations; they can choose to evict problematic tenants. Below is a basic overview of the eviction process.

Initiating The Eviction Process

From the outset, eviction proceedings may seem simple and streamlined, but due to specific state regulations, the process is actually very complicated. Enlisting the help of a qualified Miami attorney experienced in litigating Florida landlord tenant disputes is essential if landlords want to legally and effectively evict a tenant. The first thing to know is that landlords cannot evict occupants unless they have terminated the tenancy first. To do this, a landlord must give adequate written notice of eviction to the resident.

Basic Types of Eviction Notices

Landlords usually opt for one of these three types of notices. Each notice addresses a certain problem commonly associated with a breach of contract.

    1. Pay Rent or Quit Notice – This is given to tenants who have failed to pay their rent. Tenants are given a short period of time (3 to 5 days in most states) to pay the rent they owe or move out.
    2. Cure or Quit Notice – This is given to occupants who have violated a specific term or condition in the lease or rental agreement. Examples of this include tenants who live with a pet despite a no-pets clause or tenants who smoke despite a no-smoking clause. They are given a short amount of time to either correct their violation or move out.
    3. Unconditional Quit Notice – This notice asks tenants to vacate the property. It does not give them a chance to correct their misconduct, pay their late rent payments or correct their rule breaking. Most states allow this type of notice only for certain severe situations:
      • Failure to make multiple rent payments
      • Violations of the terms of the rental agreement more than once
      • Serious damage to the property
      • Illegal activities conducted on the premises (e.g. drug dealing)

Eviction Without Cause

The above dealt with situations where an eviction with cause would be pursued. However, landlords can evict tenants that have not done anything wrong. They may want to sell the rental unit, renovate it, or start living in it. These types of evictions only work for month-to-month renters, not residents with fixed term leases. In most states, tenants can be evicted without cause as long as landlords provide a long notice period, usually with a written 30-Day or 60-Day Notice to Vacate. The exception to this are rentals that are located in rent control cities and areas. In such cases, Just Cause Eviction Protection Laws trump state laws, and landlords must prove they have a legally recognized reason for the termination.

The Eviction Lawsuit

If proper notice has been given, but the occupant has not fixed his problematic behavior or failed to move out — the landlord must file an eviction lawsuit, also called an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit. To start the lawsuit proceedings, landlords must file all the proper documents to their local courthouse. Plus, they must send a complaint for eviction and related summons to the renters. During the lawsuit, it is especially important that the landlord has strictly followed all the state regulations and procedures regarding eviction because tenants can use any errors the landlord made as their defense. A qualified Miami attorney would know how to deal with all state-specific details to ensure the lawsuit ends in favor of the landlord.

The Sheriff’s Escort

Landlords who win their lawsuits are given a court order for possession of property, but they cannot use this court order to evict the tenants themselves. Changing the locks of the rental property, locking out residents, turning off utilities, forcefully removing property from the premises, or other self-help eviction actions are not legal. Landlords must go to their local sheriff or marshall to handle the next step. For a fee, they will notify the occupants that if they do not move out within a certain number of days, a law enforcement officer will return and physically remove them from the premises. After this, most individuals will move out by themselves and the eviction process is complete.

The eviction process has three basic steps: landlords must give notice, file a lawsuit, and if needed bring in law enforcement. However, within those basic steps are complex and specific rules and procedures which vary from state to state that landlords must follow to a tee.

If you are a landlord who is stuck with nightmare tenants, call the law offices of Graham Legal today. Our attorneys specialize in litigating Florida landlord tenant disputes and will smoothly guide you through the eviction proceedings.

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