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Eviction Laws in Florida

Florida has specific statutes that govern residential tenancies and evictions.  See Fla. Stat. § 83.40 et. seq.  In Florida, landlords can evict a residential tenant for any number of reasons, the most common of which are:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Violation of lease terms (e.g., having a dog when the lease prohibits dogs)
  • Violation of the tenant's statutory obligations to maintain the unit under Fla. Stat. § 83.52.

The Florida Eviction Process In A Nutshell -- Five Steps.

In cities throughout Florida, including Tampa, a landlord is not allowed to use "self-help" to force a tenant to vacate. Examples of self-help remedies which are prohibited include:

  • Interfering with the utilities
  • Changing the locks
  • Removing the doors.

A landlord who uses self-help can be sued by his/her tenant for actual money damages or for statutory damages equaling three times the monthly rent, whichever is greater. Your tenant can also recover his/her attorneys' fees. Fla. Stat. § 83.67(6).

Therefore, to successfully and lawfully evict a residential tenant, a Florida landlord must take these five steps:

Step One: Give Notice.

A landlord cannot evict a tenant until notice is given. In general, under Florida law, there are three commonly used notices: 3-day, 7-day "notice of cure" and 7-day "unconditional quit."

1.  Three-Day Notices -- Non-payment of Rent.

Three-day notices are used for tenants that have failed to pay their rent. This type of notice states the exact amount of rent that is due, gives the tenant three-days (excluding weekends and holidays) to pay and states that the tenancy is terminated if the tenant fails to pay the rent. If the tenant does not pay rent and has not moved out, then the landlord can begin an eviction lawsuit. Fla. Stat. § 83.56(3).

2.  Seven-Day Notice To Cure -- Violations That Can Be Corrected.

Seven day notices are used for tenants who have lease/statutory violations other than non-payment of rent.

If the tenant is violating the lease and the violation(s) can be "cured" or corrected, then the landlord must give the tenant a seven-day notice to cure. This tells the tenant that they are violating some lease provision and that he/she has seven days to correct the violation and that, if they do not, the tenancy will be terminated. If the tenant does not fix the violation within seven days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. Fla. Stat. § 83.56(2)(b).

3.  Seven-Day Notice Unconditional Quit Notice -- Violations That Cannot Be Corrected.

If the tenant is violating the lease in such a manner that the violation cannot be corrected, then the landlord can give the tenant a seven-day unconditional quit notice. This tells the tenant what lease or statutory provision he/she has violated and that he/she must move out within seven days or the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit. Fla. Stat. § 83.56(2)(a).

4.  Other Notices -- No Leases And/Or Holdover Tenants.

Where the tenant has no written lease, the landlord can terminate the tenancy without specifying a reason as long as notice is sent in the proper manner and allowing for the proper number of days. Fla. Stat. § 83.57 specifies the number of days required for any notice where there is no lease. As an example, a month-to-month tenancy requires a fifteen-day notice.

A holdover tenant is a tenant who does not move out when his/her lease expires. Under Florida law, leases do not automatically renew. If the tenant does not vacate, then the tenant is considered to be renting without a lease. As such, the notice must comply with Fla. Stat. § 83.57. For example, most holdover tenants are considered month-to-month and, as such, a fifteen-day notice is required.

Method of Notice.

Florida statute allows the various notices to be delivered to the tenant(s) via mailing or via hand-delivery or, if the tenant is absent from the premises, via leaving a copy at the residence. Fla. Stat. § 83.56(4).

As a practical matter, however, many judges will require proof of actual receipt of the notice by the tenant. Thus, if the notice is being mailed, it should be sent via certified mail or via "return receipt requested." However, the better practice is to personally deliver the notice or post a copy at the property if the tenant is absent since many tenants will refuse to sign for a certified or return-receipt-requested letter. If posting the notice, make sure the posting is clearly visible and conspicuous. 

Step Two: Prepare and File the Eviction Lawsuit.

Evictions are governed by Fla. Stat. § 83.59. After the 3-day or 7-day notice has been given to the tenants and after the time has expired, the landlord may begin a lawsuit in the county where the property is located.

To file the lawsuit, a landlord or the landlord’s attorney must go to the county courthouse and file the following documents:

  • Complaint For Eviction
  • Summons For Eviction
  • Nonmilitary Affidavit
  • One addressed envelope per defendant with two stamps on the envelope

The complaint gives the court the relevant information about the landlord, the property, what the tenant has done wrong and asks that the court evict the tenant. The summons is a notice to the tenant of the lawsuit. The nonmilitary affidavit certifies that the tenant is not an active member of the US military. Special rules apply to active members of the military.

With the complaint, copies of the lease (if there is one) and a copy of the 3-day or 7-day notice must be attached.   

The filing fee is $185 in most Florida counties (as of 2017) plus $10 per defendant for issuance of the summons.

Step Three: Serve The Summons And Complaint.

Service of summons is necessary for the court to gain “personal jurisdiction” over the tenant. The clerk of court will send a copy of the complaint and summons to the tenant. But, in addition, a copy of the complaint and the summons must be personally delivered to the tenant.  A landlord can choose to have the county sheriff or a private process server make the personal delivery. The sheriff's office will charge $30-50 per tenant. A private process server might charge $50-100 per tenant. 

Step Four: Go To Court, Obtain A Judgment and A Writ of Possession.

From the day that your tenant is personally served with the complaint, he/she has five days to go to the clerk's office and file a written response (and pay a filing fee).

If your tenant files a response, then a hearing date and time will be set with the judge assigned to your case.

You must appear on that date and go to the proper courtroom. You must bring with you the evidence necessary to prove your case (including any witnesses that have helpful testimony). You should expect to be sworn in by the clerk (promising to tell the truth) and expect to give testimony and give to the judge copies of relevant documents and other evidence. At a minimum, you will need copies of your complaint, lease and of your 3-day or 7-day notice. 

If you are successful in proving your case, then the judge will issue a judgment in your favor. The judgment is then sent to the clerk’s office and the clerk will issue a Writ of Possession.

If your tenant does NOT file a response to your complaint, then after the five days has expired, you can file a motion with the clerk of court seeking a default judgment. Here again, you will be given a court date/time with the judge assigned to your case. You will appear at that time and, if everything is in order, then the judge will issue a judgment of possession in your favor and shortly thereafter, the clerk will issue a Writ of Possession.

Step Five:  Have The Sheriff Serve and Execute The Writ of Possession.

A Writ of Possession must be served upon and executed against the tenant by the county sheriff's office. The cost for service and execution of a Writ is between $90 and $115. As an example, the sheriff of Miami-Dade County charges $115. All Writs of Possession must have the name and telephone number of landlord or authorized agent who will meet the Deputy and accept possession of the premises. 

Completing a Writ of Possession is a two-step process: service and execution. First, the Deputy serves the Writ by delivering a copy to the tenant (or by posting the Writ if the tenant is hiding or is absent). In general, the Writ gives the tenant 24-hours to vacate. However, as a practical matter, because Writs are only executed during normal business hours (meaning no weekends) and because of the need to coordinate schedules, the tenant may end up with two or three days to vacate.  

After delivering or posting the Writ, the Deputy will call the landlord or the landlord’s agent to schedule a time to meet at the property (after at least 24 hours has elapsed). 

At the scheduled time, the sheriff deputy will execute the Writ. This means the Deputy will physically remove the tenant (if the tenant is present) and will stand by, keeping the peace as needed, while the landlord has new locks installed and otherwise secures the property. In addition, at the landlord’s request, the Deputy will walk through the property. Sadly, tenants have been known to hide in the property which can become dangerous once the Deputy leaves. On request, the Deputy will check each room. The Deputy will also remain at the scene while the landlord removes any of the tenant’s personal possession.  If the landlord expects there to be a substantial amount of possessions to be removed, the landlord must arrange a sufficient number of movers to get everything out quickly. 

Do You Need to Hire An Eviction Attorney?

For landlords and property managers, evictions produce some of the most difficult and emotionally charged aspects of the job. Evictions are also complex and difficult to navigate without making mistakes. For example, the 3-day notice must correctly calculate the rent due. Depending on what is written in the lease, some charges and fees may or may not be rent such as:

  • Late fees
  • Banking NSF fees
  • Dog/pet monthly surcharges
  • Parking and/or storage space charges
  • Facilities fees (such as pool or gym fees)

If fees and charges are erroneously included as “rent,” a judge might determine that the notice is invalid.  As such, the eviction case will be dismissed and the landlord will have to start from scratch. You need to have experienced eviction attorneys to provide advice and to help you through the process.