An overview of the Florida Eviction process by an Orlando Property Manager
Oliver Overton-Morgan is the Broker-Owner of Morgan Property Solutions, with over 14 years experience as an Orlando Property Manager in Central Florida.
Eviction usually comes as a shock to both parties involved. The Tenant often acts as though they cannot believe or understand why they are being evicted, and the Landlord is usually upset that they are having to resort to this final step.
The first step to avoiding an eviction is running a comprehensive application on every tenant. We recommend running a full credit report with score, nationwide eviction and criminal checks, income, current and past two years employment and residency history. Not only does is produce a summary picture of each tenant and regarding their financial and rental history, it also helps in showing you comply with fair housing, in other words you base your results, say, on their application results and not on the color of their skin, religion, or other protected class.
Once you have approved a tenant with good results, your chances of facing an eviction are greatly reduced. However there are some other things you can do that will help.
The next step is having a rock solid lease agreement. We are talking about a good quality lease written by a landlord attorney, preferably that attorney would be the same firm that can handle your eviction, if needed. The attorney’s office will be able to interpret their own lease very easily and therefore make the process simpler.
Unfortunately, sometimes even when it seems our best efforts at finding a suitable tenant have been successful, there comes along a tenant that let’s us know we are not infallible! And let’s face it, some areas or communities have much higher rates of eviction than others.
As a property manager in orlando, our policy is to make rent due on the first of the month, and late after the first. On the 4th a late fee is applied and by the end of the first week if the tenant still has not paid, a 3 day notice is personally served at their doorstep. In Florida, this notice is the first step before filing for eviction proceedings.
If we are able to setup a reasonable payment plan, we can work with the tenant. If not then within a short time frame and still no payment from the tenant we collect all the documents ready for the attorney. These include the lease, an original copy of the 3 day notice, a breakdown of the charges on the 3 day, and any other paperwork the attorney requires in order to send the filing to court.
In a successful uncontested eviction, the proceedings usually take approx. 3-4 weeks for the judge to make a final judgement ruling. An uncontested eviction is one where the tenant does not make a valid legal claim to the judge of why they have not been paying their rent. Most evictions tend to be uncontested because the landlord tends to treat eviction as the final straw after giving the tenant a reasonable time to pay.
Once the judge makes a final judgement, you can choose to pay the county sheriff a fee to serve a write of possession. We always recommend doing this, because this is the only way to ensure the tenant is forced off the property. The sherif will give you a time and date to meet you at the property. You will need to be there early with your locksmith, and perhaps a handyman to give you some estimates for repairs. You need a locksmith present in case the tenant has changed the locks as you will need to enter the unit for the sherif to look inside and determine the property is vacant; or they will need to remove the tenant(s) by force. Your handyman will also be useful in case you need to remove large items of the tenant’s property from the house.
If the tenant leaves personal items or furniture inside you need to remove all of it and site it on the curb. Our attorneys advise against you against taking any of this, however the legal requirement is that it needs to be on the curb before anyone removes it. We suggest taking photos of the belongings sitting on the curb as proof that this was done correctly. You do not need to immediately remove the belongings, but to help prevent an evicted tenant breaking in to retrieve their personal property, it is a good idea to do this as quickly as possible, Rekey all locks and make sure all windows and entryways are completely secure.
Eviction is never a great outcome, other than the fact that you removed a bad tenant. There are many costs, not just only the attorneys fees and prior lost rent, but now you will have a vacancy to be filled, we have found there are always repairs and cleaning needed, plus you will have the cost of re-leasing the unit again.
So make sure next time when you are screening applicants, be as thorough as possible and don’t be forced into leasing to a tenant you are not comfortable with. Nothing is foolproof but it sure helps. The best landlords and property managers understand the blessing of a good tenant just as much as the nightmare of a poor one, and it is better to wait a little longer with a vacant unit than to place a nightmare in that unit.
Check our property manager articles and advice at Orlando Property Management for more useful landlord tips, property management advice, and help for your Orlando rental property.
Oliver Overton-Morgan, Broker GRI