**Important 2020 Update: EXCEPT FOR EXISTING CLIENTS, OUR FIRM NO LONGER PERFORMS EVICTIONS, AND WE DO NOT ADVISE OR REPRESENT TENANTS**
Landlord Tenant Disputes
Whether you need help with an eviction, a lease violation, or a security deposit dispute, our experienced landlord tenant attorneys understand Florida law and can effectively apply it. This article specifically covers residential landlord tenant disputes and evictions. If you are a landlord interested in proactively protecting yourself, please visit our Lease Drafting and Review page. This article only addresses residential landlord tenant disputes.
We Understand the Complicated Eviction Process
Both commercial and residential landlords must adhere to strict statutory deadlines and procedures when evicting a tenant. When a landlord does not follow the proper procedure for evicting a tenant, or engages in one of the prohibited practices listed below, he or she may be liable for the financial harm suffered by the tenant, including the tenant’s attorneys fees and court costs. If you are a residential or commercial landlord experiencing problems with a tenant contact us today to assert your rights as landlord and avoid legal complications.
Prohibited Practices By Landlords in Landlord Tenant Disputes
Under Florida law tenants retain certain rights even when they fail to pay rent or take actions in violation of their lease agreement. Pursuant to Florida Statute §83.67, a landlord is prohibited from taking the following actions prior to a lawful eviction:
(1) Turning off the tenant’s utilities, whether done directly or indirectly
(2) Changing the locks or otherwise preventing the tenant from entering the unit
(3) Removing the tenant’s personal property from the unit
(4) Removing the door to the unit or otherwise damaging the structural integrity of the unit
The consequences for violating the above statutes can be severe. If the landlord does engage in any of the above prohibited practices, the landlord “shall be liable to the tenant for actual and consequential damages or 3 months rent, whichever is greater, and costs, including attorney’s fees.” Florida Statute §83.67(6).
The Proper Procedure For an Eviction in St. Augustine
Landlord tenant disputes occurring in St. Augustine are governed by section 83 of the Florida Statutes, provided below. The most common landlord tenant issue that arises involves non-payment of rent. Other violations include the tenant having unauthorized overnight guests, the tenant causing damage to the premises, and disputes over security deposits.
This article covers the most common notice, the three-day notice for non-payment of rent, which should only be used when the tenant does not pay rent or does not pay the correct amount of rent. If you are experiencing problems with a tenant having unauthorized overnight guests, causing damage, or other problems, our landlord tenant attorneys can also advise you on the proper notice and procedure to follow in those situations.
The Three-day Notice – Use For Non-payment of Rent
Generally speaking, if a tenant violates the terms of a rental agreement, the landlord must first give the tenant notice to remedy the default. If the tenant fails to timely pay rent, or pays an insufficient amount of rent, a three-day notice is required before the landlord can take further legal action. Care must be taken when drafting a three-day notice, as an improperly drafted three-day notice can be cause for the court to dismiss your case. Common mistakes by landlords when giving a three-day notice include:
(1) Miscalculating the three days (the first day you give the notice does not count).
(2) Not observing court holidays (a court holiday does not count as one of the three days)
(3) Counting weekend days (Saturday and Sunday do not count as one of the three days)
(4) Including utilities in the amount of rent owed (you only list the rental amount)
After properly drafting the three-day notice the landlord should deliver the notice to the tenant or post the notice on the door of the tenants unit. If the tenant has still not paid rent at the end of the three day period (i.e. by the fourth day), the landlord can then proceed with filing a formal eviction lawsuit with the court.
If you are a landlord and find yourself in this situation, a skilled and knowledgeable landlord tenant lawyer can effectively apply the law to protect your rights. Furthermore, under the Florida Statutes, the prevailing party in a landlord tenant dispute may recover attorneys fees and court costs from the losing party.
The Fifteen-day Notice – Use For Termination of Tenancy
The Fifteen-day notice is the proper notice to use near the end of a lease term when you decide that you no longer wish to rent the premises to the tenant. Pursuant to Florida law, the notice to the tenant must be given at least 15 days before the new lease period begins. For example, if your tenant has a month-to-month tenancy beginning on the 1st of every month, and it is currently the month of June, your notice would have to be given at least 15 days before July 1st to be effective for the month of July.
However, fifteen days is the minimum amount of notice required to be given under Florida law, and your specific lease agreement may require more notice to the tenant.
We Can Help You Proactively Prevent Future Litigation
Alternatively, if you are looking to protect yourself from future problems with tenants, our attorneys can help you proactively accomplish this by reviewing your current lease agreement or drafting a new lease agreement tailored specifically to your situation. To learn more about our lease drafting and review services, please visit our Lease Drafting and Review page.
A copy of Florida Statute §83 covering landlord tenant disputes can be found by clicking here.