No landlord ever wants the tenancy to end in eviction. It’s not fun, it’s time consuming, and it’s potentially expensive compared to just getting the tenants to vacate so that a new tenant can be found. However, if you’re a landlord in Florida and find that you have grounds to evict a tenant make sure to follow the law and do not initiate a “self-help eviction”.
What Is Self-help Eviction?
Essentially, a self-help eviction is the often not-so-subtle methods used to try to force a tenant to vacate the premises. The following prohibited practices are outlined in Florida Statute § 83.67:
- directly or indirectly interrupting or terminating utilities to the unit
- preventing the tenant from gaining access to the unit, including by changing locks or using a bootlock device
- removing doors, locks, or windows
- removing tenant’s personal property from the unit
Penalties for a Self-help Eviction
The penalties for engaging in one or more of the prohibited practices are steep. A landlord is liable to the tenant for actual and consequential damages or three months’ rent, whichever is greater, and costs, including attorney’s fees. Subsequent or repeated violations are also subject to separate awards of damages.
When and How Can I Evict?
If a tenant fails in their obligation to maintain the dwelling unit, or violates a material provision of the rental agreement, other than a failure to pay rent or abide by reasonable rules or regulations, then the landlord may deliver a notice to evict. It’s important to note that the noncompliance must be either something that the tenant should not be given an opportunity to fix or it must be something that tenant has done repeatedly over the previous 12 months and was given an opportunity to remedy. As stated in the statute, examples of noncompliance that the tenant should not be given an opportunity to remedy are intentional acts of destruction, damage or misuse of the landlord’s or other tenant’s property.
The landlord would deliver a written notice to the tenant specifying the noncompliance and the landlord’s intent to terminate the rental agreement for that reason. The notice must contain some specific language, which is also outlined in the statute, and the tenant then has seven days from the date that the notice is delivered to vacate the premises. Remember to document everything, including the use of photos as proof of any physical damage.