Landlords sometimes try to kick tenants out of the homes they are renting. If the tenant doesn’t move out voluntarily, the landlord must take the tenant to court. We call that court process “eviction”. These procedures are governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida State Landlord-Tenant statutes. If you are a tenant (as opposed to, for example, a guest or a squatter) living somewhere with a valid rental agreement (verbal or written), a landlord cannot just break in and kick you out on his own! Doing so would be illegal – your landlord would probably get into trouble, and you would likely be able to sue your landlord. If a landlord wants you out and you won’t leave, a landlord’s only way to get you out is through the eviction process. That process usually must start with your landlord giving you a “notice of termination.”
The Notice of Termination
There are different types of termination notices. The most common are:
- A “72-hour notice” is a notice a landlord can give you if you are behind on your rent. The notice gives you 3 days (72 hours) to either pay or get out. If a tenant receives a three-day notice to vacate for failure to pay rent and pays rent in full during the three-day time period, then the landlord cannot proceed with eviction.
- A landlord can use an eviction “for cause termination notice” if the landlord claims you have violated your rental agreement. Landlords must give a tenant a seven-day written notice before they can evict you. This notice must list the reasons/violations that the tenant has done wrong and allow the tenant to fix or cure the problem. Nothing should happen if the tenant fixes the problem.
Tenant Defenses for Challenging an Eviction in Florida
There are several defenses available to tenants for fighting an eviction. Here are some of the legal grounds available to tenants who want to stop an eviction in Florida.
Landlord Used Unlawful Eviction Procedures
A landlord may not engage in “self-help” or unlawful eviction procedures by using such means as shutting off the utilities to the rental unit or changing the locks on the doors. A landlord who does any of these prohibited actions could end up paying the tenant damages worth up to three months’ rent.
Landlord’s Eviction Notice and/or
Service to the Tenant Had Errors
In Florida, a landlord must follow very specific guidelines when delivering an eviction notice to a tenant. A common example of this is if an eviction notice does not have the required information like the date the tenant must be out of the rental unit, the eviction notice will be considered defective. The landlord is required to fix the error and send the eviction notice again to the tenant before the notice time period starts running for the tenant to move out.
These defenses will not stop an eviction completely if the landlord is justified in evicting the tenant. It will merely give the tenant more time to live in the rental unit before being evicted.
Some other example defenses are:
- Landlord does not have a legal justification to evict
- Tenant has not paid rent because landlord has failed to maintain the rental unit premises
- Landlord is retaliating against the tenant
- Landlord evicts the tenant based on discrimination
Many Florida law firms steer clear of representing tenants because they often have no money to afford legal services, or they believe the tenants are mostly at fault anyway. But at Consumer Law Attorneys, we are a lot more understanding and willing to help. If you can’t afford to pay an upfront fee to retain us, we still may take your case if your tenant rights have been violated. Our fees will be paid by the landlord or apartment complex if we win your case. All the tenant has to do is provide evidence, show up in court, and let our attorneys get you the compensation that you are due.