10 Florida Eviction Facts You Should Know During Quarantine

These are dark days…for sure. And the only thing that’s certain is that things are going to get worse….much, much worse.  The thing that has me most concerned is the dramatic unemployment numbers and the hundreds of thousands of people who are unable to access even the very stingy benefits that Florida entitles workers to and the millions of workers in the entire U.S. who are being denied their benefits. Yes, things are definitely going to get worse and for many people, that means the inability to pay rent. So what happens when you’re unable to pay your rent?

Failure to Pay Your Rent Can Lead to a Florida Eviction Lawsuit

So, what do you need to know when it comes to facing an eviction lawsuit?

First, make sure you contact our office if you have questions regarding any of your rights in an eviction! The best way to do this is by clicking the small chat icon on the bottom right of your screen!

Secondly, educate yourself! Take a look at these 10 facts about Florida eviction.

10 Florida Eviction Facts You Should Know During Quarantine

1)      The governor suspended any statute proving for an eviction cause of action for 45 days in an April 2, 2020 executive order. (see order here)

The Order itself is rather unprecedented. I can find no discussion or legal analysis of a governor “suspending” laws enacted by the legislature. And what exactly does it mean to “suspend” a law? I believe that it means that the statute does not exist during the time of the suspension, so a case cannot even be filed. This should mean that a tenant who already has a case filed against them has that case put on hold during the suspension period. Whatever the case, this is only a 45 day grace period and after it expires, cases will be filed and fired up. (Keep in mind, though, that this order does NOT provide any relief for commercial evictions.)

2)      However, the Executive Order does not release a tenant from the responsibility to pay rent. Further, the executive order does not expressly prohibit a landlord from bringing an action for some other reason other than non-payment of rent. 

As a practical matter, most residential evictions are going to be stayed in their entirety, but crafty landlords will find a way to file an eviction by finding workarounds.

Additionally, while the Executive Order pauses the eviction process for a short time, the obligation to continue paying rent is not paused, so the amount of back-rent only increases during this pause, digging you deeper into debt.

3)      If a tenant fails to pay rent when due and the default continues for three days (excluding weekends and holidays), a landlord may make a written demand for payment of the rent or that the landlord will terminate the rental agreement if the tenant fails to pay rent. See F.S. 83.56(3)

This becomes one of the most important parts of a tenant’s defense in eviction cases…the letter must be sent and, as will be discussed below, the letter must be correct.

4)    Statutory requirements of a legally-sufficient 3 day notice:

So, the point here is that the statute provides explicit language that MUST be included in a landlord’s 3-day notice. The language must be correct and the calculation of dates and times MUST be correct.

Here is the language: You are hereby notified that you are indebted to me in the sum of  __ dollars for the rent and use of the premises   (address of leased premises, including county), Florida, now occupied by you and that I demand payment of the rent or possession of the premises within 3 days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) from the date of delivery of this notice, to wit: on or before the__day of _(month)_,   (year)  See F.S. 83.56(3)

5)     The Necessary Elements for Eviction

In order for a landlord to evict a tenant, the following elements must be true:

  1. a) the parties had an agreement requiring the Tenant to pay the Landlord rent for the use of the property;
  2. b) the Tenant defaulted in the payment of this rent;
  3. c) three days’ notice requiring the payment of the rent or the possession of the property was served on the Tenant; and
  4. d) the Tenant failed to pay the rent or deliver possession of the property within three days. Boudreau v. M & H Food Corp., 895 So. 2d 501 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).

6)     WATCH OUT- Evictions can move very quickly in this state

When it comes to eviction in Florida, a tenant only has 5 days from the date of service (excluding weekends and holidays) to assert defenses to eviction. However, in order to assert defenses, the tenant is required to deposit rent into the court registry or file a motion to determine rent. See F.S. 83.56(3)

This really is the most important thing for consumers to understand. No Matter what the other defenses you may have, no matter how hostile the conduct of the property owner, if the tenant does not file a motion during the 5 days after service of the lawsuit, no other defenses can be raised and a writ of possession will quickly be issued. You will be evicted!

7)     Even an Incorrect 3 Day Notice Cannot Be Argued Without Proper Defense During 5 Days

A tenant cannot argue that a defective three day notice precludes the need to pay rent into the registry. The requirement to deposit rent into the court registry is a prerequisite to any defense other than payment. Myron Alphesus Stanley, Jr. v. Quest International Investment, Inc., Case No. 4D09-1690 (December 1, 2010) 35 Fla. L. Weekly D2636a , 50 So. 3d 672.

8)     A Defective Notice Can Still Be Cured

Even if a three day notice is defective, those deficiencies can be cured after the filing of an action. See F.S. 83.60(1)(a).

9)  A Tenant Still Has Rights!

If a tenant refuses to leave a property, the landlord cannot remove them from the property without a court order. If a landlord attempts to change the locks or engage in other self-help remedies without a court order it is considered improper. This is true even if the lease allows the landlord to change the locks based on the non-payment of rent. Palm Beach Florida Hotel and Office Building Limited Partnership v. Ashford TRS Lessee II, LLP,  Case No. 4D14-3450 (December 7, 2016)  41 Fla. L. Weekly D2719a, 211 So. 3d 42.

10)   The CARES Act May Protect You!

Under the Cares Act, the Federal government has also provided a moratorium on evictions of federally backed loans or certain types of leases involving federal money. You can read a little more about this in my recent post: Live Chat: Mortgage Relief From Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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