Tenants worry that they'll be evicted within a few days of missing a rent payment, but it doesn't work like that. The landlord has to follow the strict Florida eviction process of serving notices and going to court. Soup to nuts, the eviction will take anywhere between two weeks and several months.
Even when the landlord does everything right, it can still take a few weeks to get evicted in Florida. The clock starts ticking when the landlord serves a valid notice to quit and ends when the sheriff forces the tenant out. In between those points, the timeline can be impacted by a lot of variables, such as how soon the landlord can get a court date and whether the tenant has good reasons to fight the eviction.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
From beginning to end, you're looking at anywhere from two weeks to several months to get evicted in Florida.
Three Days to Pay or Leave
A landlord can't just throw you out because he feels like it. Florida renters' rights state that he has to have a legal reason, such as non-payment of rent, violating a lease obligation or doing something illegal at the rental unit. Before filing for eviction, the landlord must give you a written notice. The type of notice depends on the reason for the eviction: you'll get a three-day notice to quit for past-due rent and a seven-day notice to quit for lease violations. The notice tells you to settle your account with the landlord or move. If you pay up by the end of the notice period, then the landlord cannot evict you.
A Few Days to Serve the Court Papers
After three or seven days, assuming you haven't cured the violation or moved out, the landlord can file a lawsuit in the county where the property is located. The court clerk will issue a summons which specifies the court date. The landlord must now hire the county sheriff or a process server to find you and hand over the court papers. This can take anywhere between a few hours and several days, depending on the sheriff's schedule and how easy you are to find. If, after a couple of tries the sheriff has been unable to deliver the papers, he will post them on the front door of the property.
Five Days to Respond By Florida Eviction Laws
Now the clock really starts ticking, as you have just five days to respond to the eviction papers. The response form asks you to list all the defenses to the eviction. For example, you might say that the landlord's notice to quit had errors, or you didn't pay the rent because the landlord failed to maintain the property. Where the eviction involves non-payment of rent, you also have to deposit the past-due rent into the court registry. File a response within five days, and the case becomes "contested."
Weeks or Months for Contested Cases
As to how long a contested case takes, how long is a piece of string? It depends on all sorts of variables including the judge's availability, lawyers' availability and whether the judge wants you to mediate with the landlord before the court hearing. This stage of the Florida eviction process could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and might even result in a full trial if you've raised several defenses. If, on the other hand, you have no defense, then the case will now move very quickly. Unless you show up in court to defend your behavior, the court will automatically enter a final judgment in favor of the landlord.
24 Hours to Vacate
Once the judge signs an eviction order, the landlord will instruct the sheriff to serve you with a writ of possession. It generally takes a couple of days for the sheriff to serve the writ, depending on his availability. You now have just 24 hours to collect your belongings and leave. If you don't, the sheriff will forcibly evict you and turn the property back over to the landlord. Anywhere between two weeks and several months could have elapsed by this point. Now though, there's no going back. You're truly at the end of the line.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images