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What Florida Renters Need to Know About Eviction

An “eviction” is a formal legal process whereby a court grants permission to the owner of real property to remove the person residing in that property. Note the word “formal”—evictions are not casual things. Contrary to what you may believe, a landlord cannot evict you for any reason whatsoever, and cannot simply change your locks and throw your possessions on the curb.

Florida is not known as being particularly tenant-friendly, but the statewide eviction process is a fairly lengthy one that allows a tenant several opportunities to contest their eviction.

Reasons for eviction

Your landlord isn't allowed to evict you for no reason. There are two main grounds for eviction in Florida:

  • You didn’t pay rent
  • You violated your lease agreement

Florida law also mandates that tenants have certain responsibilities, even when these are not specifically included in a lease agreement. These responsibilities are:

  • To comply with building, housing, and health codes
  • To keep your residence clean
  • To remove garbage from your residence in a “clean and sanitary manner”
  • To keep your plumbing clean and sanitary
  • To use “in a reasonable manner” all electrical appliances in the residence
  • Not to damage the property
  • Not to breach the peace

If you fail to comply with one of these responsibilities, your landlord is able to terminate your lease and demand that you vacate your residence. If you fail to do so, he can then evict you.

It’s pretty easy to understand what not paying rent or breaching a lease consists of. But some of the tenant responsibilities can be a bit tricky. An example of the type of property damage that can warrant an eviction would be punching and kicking walls, stripping electrical wire, and “filling the walls and ... ceiling with bullet holes” as a tenant did in one 2012 case.

“Breaching the peace” can involve something like a noise complaint—a landlord might be able to evict a tenant for persistent “yelling, shouting, altercations, amplified music, musical instruments, televisions etc” according to local lawyers.

One last thing to note: if you are a month-to-month tenant who resides in your apartment with no specific end date, your landlord can end your tenancy whenever they want. They just have to give you 15 days' notice in writing. This is not an eviction, but you do have to move out.

Initial notices and waiting periods


If your landlord is alleging that you haven’t paid rent, he must give you three days’ written notice before beginning eviction proceedings. If he is alleging that you violated some other aspect of the lease, he must provide you with seven days’ notice. Note that in both cases, you can “cure” your default, either by paying your rent in full, or complying with your lease, in the time period specified.

Note that “notice” means written notice, either mailed to you or posted on your door. You do not need to be formally served in person at this time.

Notices for lease breaches are fairly standard and easy to understand. For breaches of so-called “tenant responsibilities,” notice gets a little more complicated.

If your landlord is claiming that what you did is so bad that you should not be able to “cure” it—that is, be given the opportunity to stop doing it - he can terminate your lease immediately by mailing or posting a notice informing you of such. You will then have seven days to vacate your property before your landlord can bring eviction proceedings. Your landlord may have the right to take this action if you were substantially damaging the property, or if you had been warned about your behavior previously by written notice but failed to correct it.

If, on the other hand, your landlord is claiming you did something bad, but not so bad that you shouldn’t have a chance to fix it, he will provide you with a seven-day notice to correct the action. If you correct your action in those seven days, your landlord cannot bring an eviction proceeding, but if you do not, he can and probably will. An example of a correctable behavior would be keeping the apartment in an unsanitary condition, or failing to dispose of trash properly.

Something to keep in mind: if your landlord accepts full rent from you after he has given you notice that he has terminated your lease, the termination is revoked. Also, if your landlord knew about your behavior and “accepted” it, he might be barred from trying to terminate your lease on those grounds! Keep this in mind if your eviction winds up in court.

Summons and Complaint

After the time period expires on the notice you received, if you have not yet paid your rent or cured your breach, your landlord will serve two documents on you: a summons, either for eviction and damages or for eviction only, and a complaint, which again may include a claim for damages, or simply for eviction. If your landlord is alleging that you breached the lease but still paid your rent, and he is not asking for damages, there is a specific complaint form for that as well.

Unlike notices, a summons and a complaint must be formally served on you, in person, by someone other than your landlord.


During your notice period, you will be able to file what is known as an Answer with the court hearing your case. Do this if you wish to contest your landlord’s claims, and contest your eviction. After you file, have that Answer served on your landlord. In your Answer, include all of your defenses to the eviction. For example, if you withheld rent because your landlord failed to make a repair, tell that to the court and include photographic evidence. If you have corrected your earlier behavior that violated your tenant responsibilities, tell that to the court. It pays to be detailed.

Motions and Writ of Possession

Whether or not you file an Answer, your landlord will need to file several other documents in order to get a date to appear before a court. If you did not file an answer, he will file and serve you with either a motion for default judgment without damages or with damages. He will also file a request for a final judgment of eviction, again either with damages or without.

Finally, your landlord will file a writ of possession. If you lose your eviction, the judge will sign this writ, which will then be served on you personally, and you will have to either leave your apartment or be forcibly removed by the sheriff.

How notices must be delivered

As discussed above, the initial notice that the landlord intends to evict you need not be formally served—it can be mailed, posted on your door, or handed to you directly by your landlord or someone acting on his behalf.

However, the other documents must be served formally, including the Summons, Complaint, Answer, and Motions. None of these can be served by a party to the action—that includes you and your landlord. Both of you must either hire a local process server, or request that the county sheriff perform formal in-person service. The Motions can be served via regular mail, but everything else must be served only in person.

Eviction timeline in Florida

The time it can take to evict a tenant in Florida varies widely depending on whether the tenant decides to contest the eviction. A local attorney has put together a detailed timeline of how an uncontested eviction unfolds. If you decide to contest your eviction, it can take much longer.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.