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

Frozen Out in Tenant Eviction

Actor Jack Whitehall had a small part in the movie, Frozen, just one line, but he was so excited to be in a big Disney production.  Then when the movie came out, his line was cut.  His animated character appeared on screen, the lips moved through the words Whitehall had recorded, but the character had no voice.  The same thing can happen to property managers who try to represent their corporation in court in a contested tenant eviction. Showing up to court is good, but being able to voice your side of the case is better.  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 a contested tenant eviction (and his cause may not get very far); the Judge gets to hear a one-sided argument…from the tenant. 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 the property manager has to let it go, and either the property owner has to represent himself or herself in court, or be represented by an […] Read More

Evicting Dr. Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein was a terrible tenant.  There were strange smells, late night excavations, and complaints from undertakers about missing corpses.  Furthermore, Dr. Frankenstein never paid his rent.  His landlord was fed up and wanted Dr. Frankenstein out. What the landlord did not know was that Dr. Frankenstein was conducting his greatest experiment, a matter of life and death!  Dr. Frankenstein was building a superhuman with the legs of a running back, the arms of a weightlifter, and the head of a law professor.  Just at the moment when Dr. Frankenstein was going to unite the various body parts with a surge of electrical current, the landlord shut the power off. However, also at that moment a storm was approaching.  Dr. Frankenstein hoisted the lifeless collection of body parts to the highest point of his rental property, and then tied a kite to his creation. Sure enough—SHAAA-ZAMMO! Lightning struck with ten thousand times the voltage that would have come from  Dr. Frankenstein’s washer/dryer outlet, and behold…the creature came to life!  With superhuman strength and the madness only possessed by law professors and judges who’ve sat on the bench too long, the creature took off in a rampage, destroying everything in its […] 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

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

April Fools

It is the first of the month, do you know where your rent is?  Renters have to pay rent…it is a simple concept, easy to remember.  The renter pays the rent and the landlord collects the rent and allows the renter to live on the property.  If that relationship breaks down, landlords have a specific period of notification, with action and reaction time, allowing for checks and balances to be brought current before the matter goes further.  As a landlord, do not be an April Fool when it comes to tenant eviction; follow proper tenant eviction procedures. If rent is due Sunday and not paid, then Monday, you can give a Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit (pay or get out).  The notice must include only the rent that is due and no late fees unless “late fees” are considered “rent” in the agreement. After Thursday, if the rent has not been paid, then you can terminate the lease, but you have to file a Complaint for Eviction with the court.  Tenants in possession do have rights. Landlords have rights too.  The law provides a “summary” or shortened procedure for evictions.  You can choose to file a Complaint for Eviction […] Read More

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