Summary Process of Tenant Eviction

Tenant Eviction is like watching television shows on Netflix—you get to skip the commercials.  While a foreclosure summons gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days.  The law provides for summary process regarding tenant eviction, meaning it takes a shorter time than a normal lawsuit. As a landlord, you have to follow proper eviction procedure or it might not happen and you could lose more than rent.  If rent is due on Sunday and not paid, then on Monday you can give a Three Day Notice to pay or quit.  You do not count the day on which you give it, thus the renter has until Thursday to pay you.  If rent is not paid, then on Friday you can file a Complaint for Possession.  The Complaint has to be served by a sheriff’s deputy or other person authorized by the sheriff’s department (NOT the landlord).  Once the Complaint is served, if the tenant does not respond in five days, then you can get a Default Judgment and a Writ of Possession.  You have to wait for the court to put you in possession of the property.  Note that Landlord/Tenant Law does not work on […] Read More

Ichabod Crane Gets Schooled on Tenant Eviction

Once upon a time Ichabod Crane owned a nice little cabin overlooking a lake.  It was quiet and small and just the right kind of place to stuff full of books and sit by the fire.  The only problem was, the cabin was not close the school where Ichabod worked.  Old Ich figured he would retire one day to this place, but until then, he wanted a little income from it, just enough to service the mortgage.  So he rented out his cabin to one of his students who was from a rich family and could afford the commute. On the first day of the month, Ichabod rode over to the cabin to collect the rent.  His student met him at the door and said, “Mr. Crane, I did not know that rent was due today.”  The next day Ichabod asked again for the rent.  “I am sorry, Mr. Crane,” said his student, “but the dog ate my rent check.”  The terms of the lease had specified ‘no pets,’ but nevertheless Ichabod told the student he could turn in the payment the next day. By the third day when the student still had not paid his teacher-landlord, Ichabod was not […] Read More

Payday in Landlord-Tenant Relationships

Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant…that term is called payday.  There are penalties for changing the locks or shutting off utilities on your tenant.  If you think a non-paying renter is bad, having to pay that person three-months’ rent is worse. If you try to teach your renter a lesson by turning off the lights, water, or heat, you could wind up getting schooled.  The tuition for the school of hard knocks is three-months’ rent or damages, whichever is more.  For an attorney defending a tenant, the sound of new locks, water shut-off, and/or power disconnect is money to their ears. Any landlord can wind up with a bad tenant, but that does not mean you have to be a bad landlord and risk paying someone who does not pay rent.  Know and follow the proper procedure for tenant eviction; they are available free online at http://www.rustylaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Evictions.pdf . You can also read the entire Landlord/Tenant statute at http://www.rustylaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Chapter83.pdf .     Read More

Pay Your Rent

The key to Landlord-Tenant relationships is to pay rent…whether the relationship is a good or bad.  A renter does not have a lot of defenses if rent is not current.  Despite your complaints about the property or what your landlord has done to it, pay your rent. As a bona fide tenant, you should have running water, power, heat, and quiet enjoyment.  But the court cannot hear your complaint about the condition of your rental until rent is paid. Furthermore, rent is not like a mortgage payment.  As a tenant, you do not have a lot of time or defenses when it comes to the payment of rent.  The law provides for summary process regarding tenant eviction.  While a regular lawsuit gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days. Your only defense for non-payment eviction is:  I paid.  The Statute is very explicit:  “I paid” is the only defense.  It is a pay to play process.  (We do not want a gunfight over rent.)  Regardless of how your landlord is behaving, you can pay your rent to the Registry of the Court.  Once your rent is current, then the court can address your problem with […] Read More

Property Managers & Contested Eviction

Accidents happen and sometimes you become a landlord when you did not mean to.  Some accidental landlords deal with their new position by hiring a management company.  That is fine.  Let the management company handle the repairs, collect the rent, deal with the details of keeping the property rented.  The property management company can file tenant eviction paperwork as long as the eviction is uncontested and for possession only. Property managers and contested evictions do not mix effectively.  A property manager may show up to represent an owner, but unless he is the owner’s attorney, he does not have a legal say in what goes on (in which case his cause may not get very far). Tenant eviction is a summary process, meaning it takes a shorter time than a normal lawsuit; however, if the tenant raises a legal defense, then either the property owner has to represent himself or herself in court, or be represented by legal counsel.     Read More

Tenant Eviction for the Accidental Landlord

So you found your dream home but cannot sell your old house and decided to rent it.  Remember:  even accidental landlords have to play by the rules.   That means following the proper procedure for tenant eviction. If rent is due on Monday and not paid, then on Tuesday you can issue a 3-day notice.  The 3-Day Notice has to say that the tenant owes you rent and how much.  You can post it on the door if your tenant is not home.  If nothing happens by Friday, you can terminate the lease and file for eviction. Note that if you want to file for back rent, that is a separate count on the lawsuit, and the process takes longer than filing for a Writ of Possession. While tenant eviction is a Summary Procedure, meaning it takes a shorter time than a normal lawsuit, the law is structured not to allow for self-help eviction.  Do not try to speed up the process by changing the locks or cutting off the utilities.  And let the sheriff’s deputy do his job in serving the eviction notice. It is okay to be an accidental landlord—you may even like it—but you do not have to […] Read More

Not So Fast! Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act

The interesting thing about the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 is that the clock does not start until the transfer of title.  In other words, you could lease a place the same day it sold on the courthouse steps, and provided it was a bona fide lease, the new owner would have to honor the terms, or at least give a 90-day notice from the title transfer date. Once the foreclosure sale happens, it is usually about ten days before the transfer of title, leaving a window for a renter to get a raw deal—giving a tenant just enough time to pay his deposit and get comfortable, only to learn the new landlord is kicking him out immediately.  Not so with provisions of this law. The new property owner has to honor the length and the terms of the lease.  Even if the new owner is planning to live there himself, he has to give the tenant in possession at least a 90-day notice from the date of the transfer of title. The key factual issues are (1) valid rental agreement (month-to-month or a lease) and (2) if the new owner is going to live in it.  And […] Read More

Lease Extended on Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure

The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act was set to expire in December of last year, but has been extended through the end of next year, helping to protect those tenants occupying foreclosed properties. You still have to pay your rent.  You cannot lease the place from your mother.  And you have to pay fair market rent.  However, if you suddenly find yourself living in a place that sold on the courthouse steps five days ago, you are going to have at least 90 day before you have to leave.  (And the clock does not start until the title has transferred, which usually happens no less than ten days after the foreclosure sale.) The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act says that a new owner who takes over the property after foreclosure may have to honor the terms of the rental agreement, including the length of the rental agreement if it is a valid lease; however, if the new owner plans to live at the property as a primary residence, the tenant may be able to have a 90-day notice before being evicted. Renters have rights, even in foreclosure.  Regardless of whether or not the landlord has made mortgage payments, a tenant […] Read More

Reminder to Renters Moving Out

Landlords have fifteen days to return your security deposit.  No matter how clean and ‘undemolished’ you left your rental unit, you may have to wait up to 15 days to have your good deeds acknowledged.  That gives landlords the opportunity to examine fully the property for damages. Furthermore, the landlord has up to 30 days to send you written notice after you leave to tell you they are keeping all or part of your deposit.  If you think that is a dirty deal, you have 15 days to notify your landlord in writing (Certified Mail, return receipt requested). Note that if you terminate your lease early, you may not be able to get your deposit back. Landlord-tenant relationships can get messy.  Keep your lease clean by following proper legal procedures.   Read More

Rental Unit A/C

Rental Unit A/C John Gorrie was a Florida physician in the 1800’s.  A school was named for him in Jacksonville (now a condo complex), and his statue is in the US Capitol—Gorrie is the inventor of Air Conditioning.   He came to Florida in 1833 and realized an acute need for chilled air.  By 1851, Gorrie had a patent for an ice machine.  Though Florida may be the homeland of refrigeration, air conditioning does not extend to renters’ rights the way other utilities do in the sunshine state. Renters are entitled to live in units with running water, electricity, garbage service, working elevators (if applicable), refrigeration, gas (if applicable), and heat, but despite Dr. Gorrie’s contribution, air-conditioning is non-essential on the list of legal requirements. If your air-conditioning stops working or if there are other defects with your rental unit, (1) PAY YOUR RENT ON TIME, (2) notify your landlord of the problem with a seven-day written notice sent preferably via certified mail, and (3) after seven days if the landlord has not fixed the problem, then you can withhold rent or leave tenancy; however, it is usually best to work out a deal. Good news for renters:  the courthouse is air-conditioned.  If […] Read More