An eviction is the legal process by which a landlord takes possession of a property inhabited by a tenant. In St. Lucie County, Florida, the small claims court handles evictions. Landlords cannot simply tell tenants they must leave or remove tenants' property from the premises. Instead they must file a petition for removal of a tenant or a complaint for possession. Both landlords and tenants have specific eviction rights under Florida law.
A landlord is required to give a tenant proper notice before commencing eviction proceedings. If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord must give a three-day notice. If the tenant pays rent during this time, she can't be evicted. For other violations of the lease including noise and pet violations, the landlord must give the tenant a seven-day notice. If there is no rental agreement and the landlord wishes to remove the tenant from the premises, the landlord must give notice equal to one rental period. For example, if a tenant pays rent monthly, the landlord must give a 30-day notice. St. Lucie County's small claims court provides forms for giving tenants notice. Though these forms are not legally required, they are helpful guides for what must be included in notice to a tenant.
A tenant has the right to defend himself against an eviction in court. When a landlord files for an eviction proceeding, the tenant is served with a notice of dispossessory hearing. The tenant can go to this hearing and defend himself against the eviction. Tenants must provide evidence that they did not violate the lease or that the violation has been remedied. If there is no rental agreement and the tenant is not being evicted for cause, the tenant will not be able to prevent the eviction.
A tenant has the right to her property even if she has violated the lease. Florida law states that a landlord cannot take a tenant's property. A landlord also cannot board up the house or change the locks without first filing an eviction proceeding in small claims court.
A tenant does not automatically waive her right to her security deposit just because she is evicted. A landlord must return a security deposit within 15 days of the end of the tenancy. If the landlord intends to retain all or part of the security deposit, he must send notice via certified mail within 30 days of the itemized damages and portion of the security deposit he is retaining.
A landlord has the right to recover damages associated with a tenancy. If a tenant owes back rent, the landlord can file a complaint for possession in small claims court. This is a lawsuit that entitles the landlord to receive back rent, as well as payment for damages the tenant has caused to the property. A landlord also has the right to retain all or part of the security deposit to cover damages and back rent.
- "Every Landlord's Legal Guide"; Marcia Stewart, et al.; 2010
- St. Lucie Clerk of the Circuit Court: Residential Eviction Information and Forms
- Online Sunshine: The 2010 Florida Statutes: Chapter 83
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