The Tenant Files A Summons And Complaint
Landlords may sue tenants who refuse to move out. After the appropriate written notice is given, the tenant must fix or cure the problem, whether paying rent or otherwise. If the tenant doesn’t correct the violation, the landlord pays a fee to the Clerk of Courts and files the appropriate paperwork called a “Complaint”.
The tenant is delivered a copy of the paperwork from a sheriff or an authorized process server. This is called “Service of Process”. It is permissible that the paperwork be left on the tenant’s door and another copy be sent via mail.
The Tenant Receives A Summons And Complaint
If the tenant is served with a Complaint, they should contact a lawyer right away. Specifically, they should contact a lawyer with experience dealing with evictions. The delay in contacting a lawyer may reduce available options for the tenant’s defense.
A Florida Property Manager Can File A Complaint
This helps the landlord move the process along faster. However, the eviction case does stop once the tenant files an “Answer” and will resume when the actual owner of the property or their lawyer takes over in court.
The Tenant Has Five Days To File An Answer
The five days given to file an Answer by the tenant starts on the date of service by the sheriff or posting the paperwork on the door, not the mailing from the clerk. These days do not include weekends or legal holidays.
What The Tenant’s Answer Should Include
The tenant’s Answer must be filed within five days of being served, not including weekends or legal holidays. The Answer must be in writing and include the proper defense and reasons why the tenant should not be evicted. The Answer should be filed with the Clerk of Court as well as a copy mailed to the landlord within the same five days.
The judge may rule a “Default Judgment” if the tenant does not answer the complaint, which means that the landlord automatically wins the case and the tenant will be evicted.
The landlord can also get a ruling of “Default Judgment” if the tenant does not give the court the money owed the landlord.
Motion To Determine The Amount Of Rent To Be Paid
If the tenant disagrees with the landlord on the amount due, the tenant can file a written “Motion To Determine The Amount Of Rent To Be Paid” with the Clerk of Court along with their Answer. The Motion should include the reasoning as to why the tenant disagrees with the amount owed and request the Judge to determine to correct amount. Attachments should include proof, such as receipts to support the reasoning as well as the payment for the amount the tenant believes to be correct.
Continue Paying Rent Throughout The Dispute Via The Courts
While the eviction lawsuit is happening, the tenant should continue to pay monthly rent as it comes due. The payments should be made through the court.
Setting The Hearing Date
The tenant or landlord can set the hearing date after filing the Complaint and Answer. The Judge will set the date if the tenant or the landlord do not. No date is set if the tenant does not file an Answer, pay the correct amount due with the court, or the landlord has already received a Default Judgment ruling.
The tenant and the landlord will be notified of the date and location. Both the tenant and the landlord will have the opportunity to present their cases before the Judge. It is important for the tenant to bring anything they would like the court to consider, including the lease, photographs, receipts, witnesses, etc.
Judgment For Possession
If the tenant loses their case, the Judge will rule a Judgment For Possession for the landlord. The court will then issue a 24-hour notice, called Writ Of Possession to vacate the property. This notice will be posted by the sheriff on the tenant’s door.
Once the Writ of Possession is posted on the tenant’s door, the tenant has 24 hours to vacate the property. If the tenant and/or their belongings remain after 24 hours, the sheriff has the right to forcibly evict the tenant and padlock the door.
The landlord may impose a lien on the belongings left on the property for up to the amount of rent due.