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Florida Residential Eviction: The Process

Lease agreementPrologue: The First Step is Denial.

Your tenant missed a few rent payments. You’ve been reasonable, and given them some time to scrape the money together. At some point, enough is enough. After all, you have mortgage payments to make. In my experience, when a landlord lets a tenant get away with missing rent payments, the tenant realizes how great it is not to have to pay rent, and keeps not paying rent. Time to evict and recover possession of your property.

The process takes generally 3-5 weeks if the tenant defaults. In theory, it could be done in perhaps 2 weeks, but due to court congestion, mailing time, and delays by the Sheriff serving the Writ of Possession, this is unlikely.

Step One: Prepare and Serve Three-Day Notice. 

Before filing a Complaint to recover possession, the landlord must serve a 3-Day Notice demanding payment of rent or possession of the premises within three (3) days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) after the date of delivery of notice. The the 3-day notice is highly technical. If the landlord fails to follow any aspect of the rules regarding 3-day notices, not only will the property remain in possession of the tenant for at least a few more months, the landlord is also liable for the tenant’s attorney’s fees and costs! So, don’t use the forms on the Internet. I’ve seen a lot of them, and most of them are missing required items or contain inaccurate statements. After the expiration time on the service of the 3-Day Notice you file a Complaint for Eviction.

Step Two: Complaint  & Summons

Prepare Complaint: The landlord shall file the original Complaint and sufficient copies of the Complaint for each tenant with the Clerk. Some attorney’s believe that the 3-day notice must be attached to the Complaint, but it is actually improper (though arguably practical) to attach a copy of the 3-Day Notice. A  copy of the lease, if one exists, must be attached. You must also attach a copy of the notice and lease to each copy of the Complaint.

Issuance of Summons: After the Complaint is filed and the clerk’s filing fee (usually about $200 plus $10 for the summons) paid, the Clerk will issue a residential eviction summons. The summons and complaint is then served on the tenant by the Sheriff or a private process server.  Service is usually $50-$75 per party served (less for the Sheriff, but they’re usually slower and can be less thorough).

Step Three: Response to Complaint.

Response by Tenant: The tenant has 5 days (exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) after service of the Summons to file a response to the complaint. If an answer is filed and monies are deposited, the landlord must contact the Court to schedule a hearing.

Step Four: The Default. 

If the tenant fails to respond to the Summons, the landlord may file a Motion for Default by Clerk and obtain a Final Judgment for Possession. The judge will then order the Clerk to issue a Writ of Possession.

Step Five: Removing the Tenant.

Deliver the Writ of Possession to the Sheriff, pay the Sheriff’s fee (usually around $70). The Sheriff will usually serve the Writ within 1 week. The tenant has 24 hours after service of the Writ to vacate or being forcibly removed.