EVICTION: How Do You Get YOUR Property
Back from BAD TENANTS?


Evictions are the legal means by which a tenant is forced out of a property. A landlord does not have the power to evict a tenant in the formal sense, it must be ordered by a judge. It is the last/final way to get rid of bad tenants. But most often, tenants will leave with the minimal landlord-issued Three Day Notice.

The three basic ways a tenant will leave:

1) They voluntarily surrender the property back to you
2) They abandon the property
3) You go to court and have them thrown out

When tenants stop paying rent, or otherwise violate the lease terms or law, getting them out of the property can be stressful and costly to all parties involved.

The BEST WAY to avoid it is to exercise good judgment and use solid tenant screening practices before letting a tenant move in! Never fill vacancies out of desperation. Never agree to accept tenants without reviewing their employment, past residency history, current credit report, etc. Meet them, meet their pets, meet their kids... do whatever you need to do to feel 100% comfortable with them first.



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But even then, it's still possible for a tenancy to go bad. How do you really know there's no hope in the tenant paying their rent? If the tenant responds quickly, willing to prove current employment, has a proven track record in the past, doesn't make excuses other than the truth... it might be possible to work with them still.

But if they don't respond, avoid you, are defensive or LIE... time to let the legal system help you. WHO WILL WIN IN COURT?  Ultimately, THE LANDLORD. But it could be costly and time consuming getting there. Know what to expect. Do your research. It IS possible to get bad tenants out and collect all the money they owe you!!!



Landlords: Don't try to get a tenant to leave by shutting off utilities, changing locks or otherwise harassing them. It's against the law.


You'll need to pay attorney's fees and court filing fees. However, generally... once a tenant becomes defensive and starts lying, or refuses to communicate altogether... it's the best indication you'll need the court system to help get your property back.


Steps for Landlord:

1) POST OR MAIL THE REQUIRED THREE-DAY-NOTICE
as required by Florida Landlord Tenant Law.


2) DECIDE TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY, A SERVICE, OR DO IT YOURSELF.

3) TAKE ACTION AND GET YOUR PROPERTY BACK

4) FILE FOR A JUDGMENT, SEND TO COLLECTIONS, REPORT TO CREDIT BUREAUS.


Eviction Day: What to Expect

In Miami, The Miami-Dade Police Court Services Unit will schedule the day about a week in advance. They will post a legal notice on the property front door approximately 3-7 days prior to the event. This notifies the tenant to get out or they will be thrown out! (most tenants leave at this point wanting to avoid the police).

They will usually call the person of record a couple of hours ahead of the scheduled eviction time (same day). They can tell you if they are running behind, on time, etc - this is helpful for you as well to make sure your moving crew and locksmith are ready to go.


YES, YOU MUST BE THERE AND HAVE A MOVING CREW
AND LOCKSMITH READY! Why?


Unless the property is completely empty... the landlord must remove all furniture and personal belongings. You aren't responsible for what happens TO their stuff... but you must put it out of the property in a place they can come back to collect.

After 24 hours it is considered abandoned property and you can remove/dump it.

Why a locksmith? If you have a working set of keys, great! But unless you know FOR SURE the tenant didn't change the lock... you'll need to give the police a way to get inside.

These expenses can be added to the balance the tenant owes you. Talk to your attorney. ALSO... PHOTOGRAPH the condition of the property same day.

If there is any excessive damage/repair/cleaning that needs to be done, those expenses can ALSO be added to what the tenant owes you.


Hire a Service or Attorney?

Services: will post your notices and file your paperwork for you. But they can't often help you if the tenant contests (many of them do) or if your cause is for more complicated issues besides nonpayment of rent. No one other than the owner or an attorney can take any legal action other than filing the actual complaint. You'll have to handle it yourself in court yourself, or hire an attorney to represent you.

Attorneys: many attorneys advertise eviction services. Most have never done an eviction. That can cost you many extra months of no income. Hire an attorney that has had experience in handling evictions. They can take care of everything from posting the notices, to filing the court paperwork, to representing you if the tenant contests the eviction, they can file for a judgment for all the money the tenant owes you, and coordinate with the Miami Court Services for eviction day removal of the tenant. Before hiring, ask them what their fees will be in addition to the cost of filing with the court. Ask about experience in handling other evictions. Costs can range anywhere from a low flat fee (for firms that specialize in evictions) to a normal hourly rate (which can range from $150-400 per hour).   

Do-It-Yourself: it is possible to handle the eviction yourself. Pickup a Miami-Dade Eviction Package at one of the Miami-Dade County court houses or government centers. The package has all fees and required documents listed and included.

Visit miamidade.gov for
eviction process overview 

What about the money?

Going to court and having a judge sign off will get your tenant removed from the premises. However, once the tenant is out you will need to go BACK to court and request a judgment from the judge stating how much money the tenant owes you. With a legal judgment in hand, you have more ways to collect the money owed to you.

Once the tenants are OUT of the property (whether they were thrown out by the police through the process, or the moved out before getting thrown out) the landlord needs to then address the money owed to them by the tenant. There may be some attorneys that will include seeking judgement into their services, make sure to ask before getting started with the process.

The landlord has options to collect money owed:

1) Go back to court and seek a judgment for the amount of money owed. A judgement is a court document confirming the amount of money the tenant owes the landlord. There is a cost to seeking a judgement in court (both time and/or money). If it's a significant amount of money owed, it's a good idea to hire legal help in this matter.

2) Small claims court. This court is designed for those that want to handle their smaller legal money claims without hiring an attorney. It's much more user-friendly, but there is a limit. In Miami-Dade, small claims court will hear cases for $5k or less.

3) Collection agency. Send the amount of money owed, to a collection agency. Collections can be run by businesses or attorneys. They are all different. Many charge a flat fee for their service, and give you any collected money back to you. Others charge a percentage of any money collected (usually 1/3, up to 1/2).

This can be done with or without a judgement from a court. But WITH a judgment, the collections agency has a stronger ability to collect. Without a court document, tenants have some ability to try to avoid paying what they owe.

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