A landlord may face a situation where a tenant breaks his lease or stays after the lease expires. I have many clients with questions about eviction in Orlando facing this very situation.
What can the landlord do if that happens? The answer is sue for eviction. The landlord himself cannot evict the tenant–only a court can do so.
How long does an eviction lawsuit take?
First, the landlord must give the tenant proper notice that the landlord will file for eviction if the tenant does not fix the problem. After that notice time period, the landlord may file a lawsuit on the grounds of either forcible entry or unlawful detainer. Then the case is quickly set for trial. Assuming that the landlord properly served the summons and complaint, the court will enter a judgment. Most tenants do not defend the eviction, but if they do, there will need to be a trial first. This can happen quickly, usually within weeks after filing.
Once the court orders the eviction, the tenant will have some time to move out. If the tenant still stays after that time period, the landlord can get the sheriff to force the tenant out. Expect further delays if the tenant files motions or other procedural court delays.
What happens if the tenant doesn’t show up for the eviction hearing?
The court will enter a default judgment in favor of the landlord. This is usually the case–most tenants don’t attend the hearing.
What will the court order in an eviction case in Florida?
Assuming the landlord wins, the court may order the tenant to vacate the premises and could also order the tenant to pay back rent, damages, court costs, and, sometimes, the landlord’s attorney’s fees.
What can delay the eviction process?
Several things. If the landlord has issues properly serving the tenant with the eviction papers, the court proceedings must wait. The landlord must serve the tenant before a hearing on the eviction can happen.
Second, a tenant can throw procedural barriers in the landlord’s way to delay the entire process. Whether or not they are valid, the court must first decide these issues before moving onto the eviction trial. For example, the tenant could raise issues with the landlord’s termination notice or allege other problems. The tenant could also issue discovery requests, which must be answered.
Finally, a tenant’s affirmative defenses could cause additional delay. As an example, the tenant could raise the defense of discrimination, retaliation, or implied warranty of habitability. All of these could delay the entire process, whether or not the court ultimately finds them to be valid.
Once the tenant has been evicted, does the tenant still owe the landlord rent?
Usually yes, if the lease provides for it. Even after eviction, the tenant could be liable for rent. That being said, it would be unusual for a landlord to sue the tenant for nonpayment of rent if that’s the same reason the tenant evicted him.