I’m an Orlando eviction attorney that helps landlords get their property back through the eviction and unlawful detainer processes. My clients typically face tenants that stop paying rent, and I help our clients get their property back as soon as possible. Evictions in Orlando are governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida statutes. Understanding the eviction law is important to avoid taking unnecessary steps that lead to additional costs, delays, and an ultimately a failure to secure the rental property from the non-paying tenant. Although the City of Orlando is located in Orange County, an “Orlando eviction” generally refers to evictions anywhere in Orange County, Seminole County, or Osceola County.
The overall eviction will take 4-5 weeks. Longer if the tenant is able to contest the eviction (though this is rare). Most eviction attorneys in Orlando charge a flat fee for an uncontested eviction, but hourly for a contested eviction. You can evict with or without a written lease. If you are trying to evict a guest in your property that doesn’t pay rent, you will go through a similar process called an unlawful detainer.
Florida Eviction Status (September 2020)
Florida Eviction Ban
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult to evict tenants for failure to pay rent in Florida. The current status of evictions in Florida is as follows:
The executive order issued by the Florida governor halts evictions for non-payment of rent at the final stage of the eviction process when the residential tenants has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.
Commercial evictions and evictions for reasons other than non-payment of rent are not affected by the governor’s executive order.
The governor has extended his order until September 1, 2020. It is possible the order could be extended again.
CDC Eviction Ban
The CDC has issued a nationwide ban on most evictions for non-payment of rent through the end of 2020. The ban affects eviction of any individual making less than $99,000 per year ($198,000 for couples). The ban also only applies to people who assert that they could become homeless or be forced into a shared living situation if eviction.
It appears that a tenant does not need to prove that they would become homeless or forced into a shared situation. Instead, all they need to do is provide the landlord with a declaration that they qualify under the CDC eviction ban.
While the declaration must be provided under penalty of perjury, it is unclear to what extent the penalties will be enforced.
The CDC ban goes far beyond the limitations of the Florida governor because (1) it lasts until the end of 2020, (2) the tenant does not need to prove applicability, (3) it is a prohibition against the landlord himself.
Orlando Eviction Procedure
There are four basic steps to an eviction in Orlando:
- Three Day Notice. The owner or management company delivers a notice to the tenant stating that they have three days to pay rent or vacate the premises. Sometimes different notice periods are needed based on the circumstances. We can prepare the notice for you as part of the overall process.
- Filing a Complaint. We file a complaint, the Court issues a summons, and we serve the complaint on the tenant. The tenant has five days to respond.
- Judgment. You should then seek a judgment for possession, either because of a default (tenant doesn’t’ respond to the eviction) or after a hearing.
- Writ of Possession. After obtaining a judgment for possession, a writ of possession is issued to the sheriff to remove the tenant from the property.
Three Day Notice
Landlords typically want to work with tenants who are not paying rent. Be careful when you do this. Sometimes when discussing ways to help the tenant get current, you might be orally modifying the terms of your lease. This can be true even when your lease says that no oral modifications are effective, especially if you end up causing a new course of dealing changing the payment terms and amounts under the lease.
Therefore, even when trying to work something out with the tenant, the better practice is usually to deliver a three day notice under the provisions of section 83.56 of the Florida eviction statute. Make sure you review your lease agreement first–some leases provide for additional days such that a longer notice period must be given.
Because Orlando evictions are conducted as a statutory proceeding, the landlord must strictly comply with all requirements of a three day notice. Failure to adhere to the requirements may ultimately result in dismissal of the eviction lawsuit. A proper three day notice includes the following information:
- The total amount of rent that is owed.
- The failure to pay the rent.
- The county where the property is located.
- The date the tenant must pay the rent or vacate.
- The address at which the rental payment is demanded.
In addition, the three day notice should not include late fees in its total. For residential evictions, the three day notice must substantially adhere to the form given by statute. In addition, be careful about the mail rule: depending on which county the property is located in and the address at which the rent is demanded, you may need to add an additional five business days to the notice period.
The easiest way to serve a three day notice is to hire a process server to do it. The process server will sign an affidavit of service indicating the date and time and method of service. This significantly impairs the ability of a tenant to contest delivery of a three day notice later on. However, the cheapest way to serve a three day notice is to do it yourself. Make sure the notice includes a Certificate of Service indicating the date and method of service.
Finally, some tenants will want to pay the rent after the notice period expires in an effort to delay or avoid the eviction. If you still want to proceed with the eviction despite the offered rent, make sure you are able to reject the rent or immediately deposit it into the Court registry.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Seminole County eviction normally takes about 4-5 weeks from start to finish. Seminole County currently only has one County Court division, and it is generally quick to get a hearing. In our experience, Seminole County is very quick to process various court filings, and proposed orders can be submitted online. This makes Seminole County evictions quicker to finish compared to evictions in other parts of the Orlando area.
An eviction in Orange County generally takes 5-6 weeks from start to finish if uncontested. Recent changes in staffing in Orange County mean that court filings take longer to process. Most judges handling evictions in Orange County require proposed orders to be submitted by mail, or sometimes set short matters hearings, which is more cumbersome and takes longer than online submissions.
If the person you are trying to evict doesn’t pay rent, they are not a tenant, but a guest in your home or a squatter. If this is the case, the process to remove them from the property is called an unlawful detainer, not an eviction. The process is similar, but operates under a different section of the law.
No, Florida law requires property owners to go through a Court process to remove anyone from the property that lives there. You cannot remove them on your own even if you have a document (such as a lease) that says you can.
It is often difficult to collect unpaid rent from a tenant when evicting for non-payment of rent. As a general matter, if a tenant does not have enough money to pay you rent, they probably don’t have any money to easily collect. In addition, Florida law provides strong protections against collection of wages from a head-of-household. Therefore, it is usually not worth it unless you know there is money to collect.
Florida law places tough barriers on tenants who want to contest an eviction for non-payment of rent. Generally, a tenant must deposit the rent that is owed to the Court or else they cannot contest the eviction. This barrier to contesting an eviction is one of the most anti-tenant laws in the Country and makes Florida a very landlord-friendly state.
A tenant that pays rent under an expired lease is deemed to have a month-to-month tenancy. With this type of tenancy, you are allowed to evict the tenant after providing the proper notice that ends the month-to-month tenancy. For this type of eviction, a Court order awarding you possession is still required: you cannot simply lock out the tenant even though you do not have a lease.
Both an ejectment and an eviction are tools to remove someone from property. An eviction is the process where a landlord removes a tenant. An ejectment, however, is a dispute about who owns the property, not necessarily who should have possession of the property. Ejectments are more costly and take longer.
Whether or not you file an eviction by yourself or with an attorney, an eviction has base court costs, filing fees, sheriff fees, and service costs. These all add up to about $350 with one tenant. Expect an attorney to charge an additional $500 to $1,000 for an uncontested case.
Orlando Eviction Complaint
After the three day notice period expires, the landlord can proceed with filing the eviction complaint in Orlando. Evictions should usually be filed in County Court as opposed to Circuit Court. County court judges often handle eviction cases and will be able to rule on your case more quickly. In addition, Florida provides County Court with original jurisdiction regarding landlord-tenant actions. The lawsuit must be filed in the county where the property is located.
After filing the Complaint, a service processor is hired to serve the Complaint and Summons onto the tenant. You should serve all adults living in the property that you want evicted. Failure to serve any of the adults may result in the eventual writ of possession not being enforceable against the non-included adults.
Evictions and unlawful detainers (eviction of guests) operate under an expedited timeline compared to other legal cases. This timeline is called summary procedure. Summary procedure means that the tenant will have five business days to respond to the eviction lawsuit or else will be in default. Court holidays do not count as business days. Without summary procedure, the tenant would otherwise normally have twenty days to respond. In addition, Florida law requires judges to expedite cases under summary procedure. That means the judge will more quickly set a hearing on the eviction if one needs to be set.
The same summary procedure aspect of Florida law allows for a special method of serving evictions. If the service processor cannot locate the tenant at the rental property, then the service processor can still serve the tenant by posting a copy of the Complaint and Summons on the door of the property. This is a benefit to a landlord and makes service of the eviction lawsuit much quicker. When serving via posting, the Clerk of the Court must follow by mailing a copy of the Complaint and Summons to the tenant. The clerk will file a Certificate of Mailing which indicated the date the Complaint and Summons were mailed to the tenant. In this situation, the date of mailing—not the date of posting—starts the five business day clock.
If the tenant does not contest the eviction, you will be able to get a default judgment. Florida law makes it very hard for a tenant to contest an eviction. In fact, Florida is one of the most landlord-friendly states in the country due to the speed of evictions and financial barrier of a tenant to fighting an eviction. A tenant that wants to contest an eviction for non-payment of rent generally must first deliver the unpaid rent to the Court. The only exceptions are when the tenant claims he has already paid the demanded amount or if the tenant disputes the amount of rent that is owed. Even if the tenant disputes the amount of rent owed, the tenant generally must still pay into the Court registry the amount he thinks is owed.
Failure to pay the rent into the Court registry acts as a waiver of all defenses and results in an immediate default judgment for the landlord without any further notice or hearing.
Recent changes to Florida’ eviction law now require the tenant to pay the missing rent into the Court registry even if the tenant alleges that the three day notice was defective.
However, if the tenant does pay the demanded rent into the Court registry, you will likely need to get a hearing before the judge. The primary issues usually will be whether the rent was owed at the time of the hearing and whether the tenant lawfully withheld the rent.
The judgment resulting from the eviction is for possession. It is not a monetary judgment for back rent. To get that kind of judgment, you must also sue for “damages,” which is a legal term including all of your monetary loss (rent, property damages, eviction attorney fee’s, late fees, etc.) Getting a monetary judgment requires extra time and expense. For residential property, it is usually not worth it unless you know the tenant has non-exempt money to collect.
What documents do you need?
You’ll generally to give your Orlando eviction attorney the following documents to start an eviction in the Orlando area.
- Copy of the lease
- Copy of 3-day notice (if you have not done this, we can help)
- Copy of any letters or notices you have sent to the tenant
- Copy of any business records documenting the tenant’s non-payment of rent.
An uncontested eviction case in Orlando generally takes about -5 weeks. If the case is contested, it can take longer, but contested cases are rare. As part of the Orlando eviction process, we can include a claim for damages, such as past rent. That being said, if the tenant doesn’t have enough money to pay you rent, then he probably doesn’t have money to collect either. It’s something you’ll want to consider with your eviction attorney before seeking. You can read more about Orlando evictions on this website. Here is information about Orange County, and here is some information from Seminole County.
Writ of Possession
After the Court issues a final judgment for possession, the Clerk of the Court will issue a Writ of Possession. The writ is the formal direction to the county sheriff’s office to remove the eviction defendants from the property. A sheriff’s deputy will give you a call to arrange a time to meet you (or someone on your behalf) at the property. You will have to show up with a working key or a locksmith.
After the writ of possession is executed, you can remove all of the tenant’s personal possessions to the property line. The tenant can pick up his property–if not, it can be disposed of. You are not required to store the property after the writ of possession has been executed.
Sometimes the tenant will file an Emergency Motion to Stay the Writ of Possession. This is often the tenant’s last effort to get the eviction delayed and remain on the property. Usually the judge will deny this motion unless the tenant raises a compelling argument as to why the eviction procedure was not properly followed.
Possibly, but not automatically. You must file a separate notice that you are keeping the security deposit. If you don’t follow the statutory provisions on this notice exactly, the tenant can sue you for the deposit even after being evicted. This is something we can help you with separately.
After retaking the property, you may make a claim on the security deposit if there is one. You must file a separate notice that you are keeping the security deposit according to the provisions of section 83.49 of the Florida Statutes. If you don’t follow the statutory provisions on this notice exactly, the tenant can sue you for the deposit even after being evicted. This is something your eviction attorney in Orlando can help you with separately.
You are generally not required by law to hire an attorney for an eviction in Orlando. However, keep in mind that Courts will not give self-represented landlords any slack in following the eviction process. If you mess up, you may have to start from scratch and that may enable the tenant to escape or delay eviction.
Regardless of the requirement to deposit rent, a tenant may be able to throw procedural barriers in the landlord’s way to delay the entire process. The biggest one is bankruptcy–the filing of bankruptcy by the tenant acts as a complete halt to the eviction process, and you will have to seek permission from the bankruptcy court to continue the eviction. That could take 2-3 months.
In addition, 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. Generally a tenant must still deposit the missing rent to raise these defenses.
Evictions are also dismissed, for example, for the landlords’ failure to serve the right people, failure to include the proper summons, or failure to file the right kind of Complaint. Evictions are not rocket science—but there are lots of small rules to follow, any one of which a Court can use to dismiss your eviction.
There is ultimately no way to guarantee a process where a landlord can protect its interest in rental property. However, proper filing of the three day notice and the eviction summons and complaint is essential. The goal is to minimize the timeline of the eviction process so that you can recover possession of the property back as soon as possible and rent it out to another tenant.
What to Do Next
If you want help with the process, call us at (407) 444-0404 or submit a contact request. We can represent you from the beginning 3-day notice through the end of the eviction.
Last updated on September 2, 2020