Tenant’s Worst Case Scenario: Eviction

What a Landlord Cannot Do (written by Michael Krug, Esq., OCBA Lawyer Referral & Information Service)

Evictions in Florida are pretty rough. Once an eviction is entered against you it remains on your rental history and cannot be removed, even if it was wrongfully entered. So, if there is any possibility of an eviction, you must pay attention to all the details to protect yourself and your future.

First, let’s discuss what a landlord cannot do. Sometimes landlords shut off water, electricity or gas; or change the locks on the door to force tenants to move. All of these are illegal. You should call the police and a lawyer if your landlord tries to make you move by doing any of the following:

  • shutting off your utilities
  • changing or removing the locks on your home
  • removing doors or windows
  • taking your property from your home.

In Florida, landlords that use these illegal practices may be ordered to pay the tenant’s rent for up to three months. This amount may be even greater if the landlord has cost you more than three months’ rent. As a tenant, you will have to take the landlord to court to get an order requiring the landlord to pay rent. The payment of the rent is a form of ‘damages’. The court can also order your landlord to pay your attorney’s fees if you win. When the tenant has minor children living in the house, some landlords will resort to calling the Department of Children and Family Services after the landlord has shut off utilities to the house. The Department of Children and Family Services does not look into the reasons why there are not utilities at the property, and will initiate proceedings to remove the children from the parents’ custody if the utilities are shutoff when they arrive at the property to investigate. If possible, have your kids move to a relative’s house or a friend’s house temporarily while you fix these problems.

If you are facing an eviction, or have a landlord engaging in any of the illegal practices described above, immediately all or go online to the Orange County Bar Lawyer Referral Service and we will be happy to direct you to an attorney that can assist you.  Remember to document everything, including the time, date and duration of any shut offs and any information the utility companies may provide you. It is important to collect as much evidence as possible, including keeping documents and writing notes.

What Happens When Your Lease Ends

Now we come to what happens when your lease ends. In Florida, when a lease has a termination date, that is the date you must leave. There is no grace period. If you stay even a day after the lease ends you will be considered a trespasser upon the property. You can still try and make an agreement with the landlord to stay for an extended time, but do not expect the landlord to give this to you without increasing the rent for the extended time or charging by the day.

If there is no end date to the lease, it becomes a lease based on what the pay period is. If you pay weekly, it is a week-to-week lease. If you pay monthly, it is a-month-to-month lease. It is rare, but there can also be yearly leases. The tenant in these situations may at any time terminate the lease and move out. The landlord has a few restrictions. If rent is paid monthly, the notice must be given at least 15 days before rent is due. If rent is paid weekly, the notice must be given at least 7 days before rent is due. Termination notices must be in writing.

If you do not move when the lease is terminated, your landlord may enter an eviction against you. Evictions are public records and can never be removed from your rental history. Additionally, if you do proceed to an eviction case, the court may require you to pay the landlord’s legal costs. Please get any of these documents to an attorney immediately. The dates are extremely important and the time frames are fast. If any of these documents were received by you, immediately call or go online to the Orange County Bar Lawyer Referral Service and we will direct you to the right kind of an attorney to review the documents and answer your questions.

Michael Krug, Esq., OCBA Lawyer Referral & Information Service

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