Eviction in Florida
As a landlord, it’s probably only a matter of time before you encounter a difficult or unreasonable tenant. You may be tempted to resort to so-called “self-help” measures to evict a tenant, in these situations.
Under Florida law, however, landlords must abide by strict eviction procedures. Violating these procedures can end up costing you valuable time and resources.
If you’re a Florida landlord with questions about eviction or any other landlord-tenant issue, don’t take guesses about your obligations under the law. Protect yourself and your business by speaking to a Miami eviction lawyer.
Illegal Eviction Practices
When people use the phrase “self-help eviction,” they are usually referring to a collection of informal – not to mention illegal – means of reclaiming property as a landlord. In most states, including Florida, the law protects both residential and commercial tenants against self-help eviction methods.
In Florida, landlord-tenant matters are governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes. Self-help evictions fall under Section 83.67, which expressly forbids landlords from using certain eviction methods.
The law also imposes penalties on landlords who engage in self-help eviction practices. If the court determines that a landlord violated the law, the court may force the landlord to pay the tenant up to three months’ rent, as well as costs and attorney’s fees.
Which Self-Help Eviction Methods Are Unlawful?
Some self-help eviction practices are fairly obviously unlawful. However, others may seem reasonable to a landlord who is unfamiliar with the law.
This is why it’s always best to consult with an experienced eviction lawyer before taking the law – or your eviction – into your own hands.
Landlords Can’t Harass a Tenant
Landlords can’t harass tenants, even when they fail to pay rent on time or otherwise violate the lease agreement.
The problem is determining exactly what constitutes harassment. Clearly, it’s perfectly reasonable for a landlord to contact a tenant who misses a rent payment.
The courts also consider it lawful for a landlord to confront a tenant about violations of the lease agreement. Violations like disturbing other tenants, bringing pets into a unit that is designated as pet-free, or failing to maintain the rental as agreed.
When a landlord’s behavior rises to the level of harassment, threats, or insults, however, the landlord could run afoul of the prohibition against self-help eviction.
Landlords Can’t Shut Off a Tenant’s Utilities
Under Florida law, it is illegal for a landlord to turn off a tenant’s utilities as retaliation for non-payment of rent or any other violation of the rental agreement.
It is never acceptable to shut off a tenant’s utilities, such as water or electricity. If you shut off utilities, it could also result in criminal charges. Especially if a lack of heat, air conditioning, or water cause a tenant to become injured.
Landlords Can’t Remove a Tenant’s Property
Landlords don’t have the right to seize or hold a tenant’s property as collateral for the client’s overdue rent, even if the tenant has left personal property behind after vacating the rental unit. In this case, there are strict rules governing how landlords must handle a tenant’s abandoned property.
Landlords Can’t Change the Locks
When a tenant is past due on rent, or has otherwise violated the rental agreement, changing the locks may seem like an easy solution. Florida Law prohibits changing the locks on an apartment or other rental.
In the long run, it will be far more affordable to hire an eviction lawyer than to pay the penalties for using a self-help eviction tactic.
Read more about evictions:
Residential Evictions – Do Landlords Really Need Help from a Lawyer?
Do You Need to Evict a Tenant? Contact the South Florida Landlord-Tenant Center
Problem tenants are an unfortunate side effect of being a landlord. If you manage them properly, however, you can minimize the losses and hassles caused by bad tenants.
If you need to evict a tenant, a knowledgeable landlord-tenant lawyer can help you do it the right way. Call a Miami eviction lawyer today to get started.