A tenant may be evicted for several different reasons, including non-payment of rent or violating one of the terms of the lease. However, if you are in danger of eviction, there may be an avenue for you to delay the eviction – or avoid it altogether. 

This article will discuss how Florida evictions work, what you can do to protect yourself, and how bankruptcy may come into play.  

How to Read the Eviction Notice

The first step in the eviction process is a written notice from your landlord. This notice will state the reason for the eviction and provide a time frame to comply or move out of the unit. There are four types of eviction notices in Florida: 

1. Three-day notice to pay rent or quit: Tenant has three days to pay rent or move out.  

2. Seven-day notice to cure or quit: Tenant has seven days to fix a lease violation or move out. 

3. Seven-day unconditional quit notice: Tenant must move out of the rental unit within seven days. The tenant has no opportunity to fix any lease violation. 

4. Fifteen-day notice to quit: This notice is only applicable in a month-to-month lease situation. The tenant has 15 days to move out. 

Many people assume that they have to move out if the stated time frame runs out. But this is not true. Because an eviction is a legal proceeding, your landlord will file paperwork with the court to begin the process once the time frame has elapsed.

A tenant can continue to live in the property until a sheriff is ordered to evict you, which could take days or weeks, depending on the court’s docket. The tenant must pay rent until the day they move out of the unit.

If You Can, Comply 

If you received an eviction notice due to non-payment or violating your lease terms, you have the opportunity to correct the situation. This means even paying the rent owed or correcting a lease violation to the landlord’s satisfaction. If you live in Florida and comply with the eviction notice, the landlord is not permitted to proceed. 

Speak to Your Landlord

If your landlord delivers an eviction notice and you can’t comply with the terms, ask to speak with them. Evictions cost everyone time and money, so you may be able to work out an agreement without going to court. If the two of you cannot agree on a solution to keep you in the unit, you may be able to agree on a moveout date that works for you. Any agreement you make should be in writing, signed, and dated by both parties. 

Go to Your Eviction Hearing

If you cannot comply with the eviction notice terms and can’t agree with your landlord, he can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. The tenant will be served a copy of the paperwork and must then file a response or answer. 

An answer is a document that allows the tenant to outline why the eviction is invalid. There are items known as “defenses” that are possible to use in this manner. For instance, in Florida, a landlord is not legally permitted to turn off utilities or change the locks to force a tenant to leave the unit. If the landlord attempts this, the tenant can claim his actions as a defense. Ask your attorney for a list of other possible defenses should you feel that your eviction is illegal or unfounded. 

Once the paperwork is filed, a mandatory hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, the judge will listen to both sides of the argument and decide the eviction. Some circumstances may motivate the judge to delay an eviction, even if there is no defense. One of the most common is if minor children live in the home. In these cases, a judge may allow extra time to prepare for a new residence. Remember, though – a tenant will still owe for any rent that accrues until the moveout date. 

How Bankruptcy Affects Eviction

Filing for bankruptcy can help in temporarily stopping an eviction proceeding. It could allow a tenant to save past due rent and provide needed time to negotiate an alternate agreement with your landlord.

Filing for bankruptcy will be effective for stopping an eviction if:

  • the eviction process hasn’t progressed too far
  • the law of the state allows a tenant to catch up on back-rent
  • the landlord didn’t list a violation such as a drug use or another dangerous condition.

If you aren’t sure if bankruptcy is the best course of action for you, call a Sarasota bankruptcy attorney for a consultation.