Christmas Countdown & Court Deadlines

Today is Thursday, November 19; you have 36 shopping days left until Christmas.  If you have been served a home Foreclosure Summons, you have even fewer days than that to respond, and if you have been served a Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit at your rental unit, you have even less time. Once you receive a Foreclosure Summons, you only have 20 days to file a response or you could be defaulted in the case.  Note:  those are 20 calendar days as the crow flies, not around weekends and holidays.  The clock is ticking through Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Festivus. By contrast, Landlord-Tenant Law works off the courthouse calendar, not Wal-Mart hours.  Landlord notices come in increments of less than ten days.  Because that is such a short amount of time, the court does not count holidays or weekends to allow the tenant time to get things done.  Plus it is harder for a tenant to pay a landlord on holidays and weekends when banks are closed.  Thus in renter eviction, holidays and weekends do not count in notices. Regardless of how many shopping days you have left, if you received a Foreclosure Summons or Three-Day Notice, the clock […] Read More

Speechless in Eviction

There are certain things you should not say in court…and sometimes you are not allowed to speak at all.  More than a matter of courtroom decorum, if you are a non-attorney property manager representing a corporation, you do not have subject matter jurisdiction in a contested tenant eviction.  Thus you could be left speechless in eviction. “Your Honor, the landlord’s representative is to an attorney and is trying to represent a corporation.  He does not get to talk.” 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). The property management company can file tenant eviction paperwork as long as the eviction is uncontested and for possession only (not money).  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

My Favorite Landlord

My favorite landlord to oppose is the one who locks out their tenant—I love the smell of bad landlords in the morning! There is a proper way to do tenant eviction, and then there are a lot of improper tenant eviction techniques, like locking out the tenant or shutting off the water, heat, electricity.  Some landlords get creative in their self-help eviction…but the law is not on their side. The landlord can be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater) for improper eviction.  Renters in possession have rights…even if they have not paid the rent.  If you infringe on those rights, it could be you who gets billed. Tenant eviction is a Summary Procedure, meaning it takes a shorter time than a regular lawsuit.  While a regular lawsuit gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days.  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. 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 […] Read More

Your Landlord & Your HVAC System

Your HVAC system provides Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning to your rental unit, but only the Heat is essential as far as your landlord is concerned.  Though we live in Florida, your renters’ rights do not extend to Air Conditioning. Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant…that term is called payday.  A landlord who tries to evict by changing the locks or shutting off utilities on a tenant could be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater).  However, Florida tenants are not entitled to live in rental units with working air conditioning. If you have a problem with your heating, ventilating, and/or air conditioning (HVAC) system, talk to your landlord.  If that does not help, follow proper legal procedures to lodge a complaint, and make sure your rent is paid up, even if you are paying it to the registry of the court.  For more information on renters’ rights, contact Legal Aid for help at http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/stjohns.html.  Even if you do not qualify, they offer free pamphlets on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. Read More

Cold Hard Settlement

Having the landlord shut off your heat is not ideal for your personal comfort.  It could also mean a cold hard settlement to you as the tenant.  While air conditioning is optional for landlords to offer, renters are entitled to live in units with water, electricity, garbage service, elevators (where appropriate), refrigeration, gas (where appropriate), and heat. Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant:  payday.  If a landlord tries to “teach” a lesson to a tenant by turning off the lights, water, or heat, that landlord could be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater) for improper eviction.  Renters in possession have rights…even if they have not paid the rent. Message to landlords:  Keep the heat on and follow the proper procedure for tenant eviction.  More information is 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 . The good news is that the courthouse has heat and air condition for whatever legal issue you have to weather. Read More

Holiday Rush & Pause on Renter Eviction

The hustle and bustle of the holidays does not apply to renter eviction.  Landlord-Tenant Law works off the courthouse calendar—not Wal-Mart hours. Tenant eviction is a summary process that can be done in as little as two weeks (if done properly).  Landlord notices come in increments of less than ten days.  Because that is such a short amount of time, the court does not count holidays or weekends to allow the tenant time to get things done.  Plus it is harder for a tenant to pay a landlord on holidays and weekends when banks are closed. 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 […] Read More

Tenant Eviction

Tenant eviction is supposed to be streamlined—do not complicate it by violating your tenant’s rights. Tenant eviction is a Summary Procedure, meaning it takes a shorter time than a regular lawsuit.  While a regular lawsuit gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days.  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. I love the smell of bad landlords in the morning.  The landlord can be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater) for improper eviction.  Renters in possession have rights…even if they have not paid the rent.  If you infringe on those rights, it could be you who gets billed. 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

Renting a Foreclosure Property?

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. 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 of course, (3) rent must be paid. Even if you lease a place the same day it sells on the courthouse steps (provided it was a bona fide lease and you pay your rent) the new owner has to honor the terms, or at least give a 90-day notice from the title transfer date (not the foreclosure sale date). That is good news for renters, but only through the end of this year.  The provisions were a temporary help for tenants during the foreclosure crisis.  The Act is scheduled to expire December 31, 2014. For more information on the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of […] 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

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