EVICTION: When you want the tenant out.


Eviction for Non-Payment of Rent:

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 remove tenants.

The three basic ways a tenant will leave:

1) They voluntarily surrender the property back to you
2) They abandon the property
3) You file in court to have them removed


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.

But even then, it's still possible for a tenancy to go bad. Life happens. People lose jobs, get into bad car accidents, have big medical bills, etc. Life is unpredictable. Behavior of humans is unpredictable. So DO NOT make the mistake in trying to predict how your tenants will respond. Stick to the legal prescriptions Florida gives in dealing with any circumstances that may arise.


Most landlords are nice, good people. Their inclination is to give tenants a chance.

Are you a landlord that wants to be kind, give your tenants a chance to recover from a hardship they may be experiencing? Keep in mind two things: 1) your rental property IS YOUR BUSINESS and 2) there is no way to predict the future or how human behavior. How you choose to deal with every situation in a tenancy is a bit of a gamble. Every single situation is different. But there are some commonalities we can share: if the tenant responds quickly, is willing to provide proof of funds/that they can still afford to pay rent etc, has a proven positive track record in the past, they aren't making excuses other than verifiable truths... it might be possible to work with them still. Negotiations for an early termination, written warnings of curable infractions before fines, etc are ways to work WITH tenants and keep a good rapport.

BUT if they are no longer responding to you, are avoiding you, are defensive or LIE... it's time to let the legal system help you. Enlist the help of an attorney or law firm that specializes in real estate for curable violation or collections issues. For Non-Payment of Rent issues, go straight to a law firm specializing in evictions. WHO WILL WIN IN COURT?  Ultimately, THE LANDLORD. But it's important for landlords to follow Florida Landlord/Tenant Law as prescribed. It IS possible to find bad tenant solutions for any issue that comes up. Most often good tenants won't turn bad. Bad tenants will most often and unfortunately remain bad, and good tenants will almost assuredly remain good. So... recommendations:

1) Good Tenant Screening to avoid bad tenants

2) Treat your rental as a business, following Florida Landlord/Tenant Law as prescribed, without emotion


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.

If you take these steps, you will not win. And many judges over the years have made landlords pay A LOT of money to their tenants when they took these measures against them! Stick to the prescriptions Florida Landlord/Tenant law provides.


EVICTION Steps for Landlord and most common costs:

1) POST OR MAIL THE REQUIRED THREE-DAY-NOTICE as required by Florida Landlord Tenant Law (or hire an attorney to do it for you). However, this is the easiest part of the process that most landlords do themselves. [FREE]

2) FILE FOR AN EVICTION once the THREE DAY NOTICE is not complied with. Can be done by a landlord or an attorney/law firm equipped for handling evictions. Costs will vary depending on how many tenants, Sheriff removal fees etc. Most common expenses to have an attorney handle the eviction start to finish: [$600-$800]

3) FILE FOR JUDGEMENT FOR CLAIM ON EXPENSES. While filing for eviction in the court system, the attorney can ALSO file a second count for the monies owed to the landlord. There is additional paperwork involved so also an additional legal fee. This part isn't necessary but is often a good idea. When granted, landlords will have an additional tool to help collect monies owed from the tenant after they move out. Waiting to take this step until after the eviction is granted will be more costly and take more time. Also possible for a DIY landlord to file in small claims court and represent themselves. Common costs for same eviction attorney to also file for a judgment: [$300-$500


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.


HAVE A MOVING CREW AND LOCKSMITH THERE! Why?

Unless the property is completely empty, the landlord must remove all furniture and personal belongings while the eviction official is present. 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. DO NOT ASSUME YOUR KEY WILL WORK and DO NOT ASSUME THE TENANT WILL OPEN THE DOOR FOR YOU. If you can't legally get inside during the eviction, it will have to rescheduled for a future date (usually weeks).

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. For rent owed and expenses, it's possible to file in small claims court if the amount isn't more than $5000.

What about the money?

Options:

1) Seek a judgment for Claim of Expenses either in addition to the first count of Eviction, or after an eviction takes place. 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. If landlords are using an attorney for the eviction, the attorney can file for the Claim of Expenses at the same time they are handling the eviction filing which may save a little money in legal fees and WILL save time. Waiting until an eviction happens before going BACK to court to seek a judgement will cost a little more in legal fees AND take longer to be get the judgment for money owed.

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 from a court, 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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