Eviction Law in Fort Myers, FL

What Is an Eviction?

An eviction is the forceful exiting of tenants following an issued notice by the property owner or landlord. Evictions usually come as a result of failure to pay rent, or from violations of the lease agreement. However, evicting a problem tenant can be a long and costly experience as landlord-tenant laws favor tenants. Getting a better understanding of how Fort Myers, Florida eviction law can help.

Even though eviction notices happen as a result of serious problems with the tenant, not all eviction notices lead to an actual eviction. Oftentimes, eviction notices serve as a final warning for the tenant. If the tenant can then pay rent, or begin to follow the lease agreement, they may avoid eviction.

When Can Landlords Send a Termination Notice?

The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent

If a delinquent Fort Myers, FL tenant frequently pays rent late, or has not paid rent at all, there is a good reason for eviction. Some states do have a grace period for an occasional late payment. However, if a tenant makes a habit of always paying late, that grace period does not apply and the property owner can provide an eviction notice.

Under Florida law, a Fort Myers landlord may charge a tenant a late fee for failure to pay rent when due. However, the landlord must specify the amount of the late fee and the conditions for imposing it in the rental agreement. Some Fort Myers landlords offer a grace period in the lease, but Florida does not require it.

You should always provide your tenant with “late rent” notices and keep a copy for yourself in your files. That way, if the eviction case goes to court, you have paper evidence of their failure to pay rent on time.

The Tenant Violates the Terms or Conditions of the Lease Agreement

Lease agreements are legal contracts. This means if your tenant violates the contract in any way, it can be grounds for eviction. For example, if your lease agreement says that your tenant cannot have an additional person living in the unit, and they violate that rule, you can begin the eviction notice process.

The lease agreement is also legally binding for the landlord. This means that any Fort Myers landlord must also follow the rules laid out in the agreement, such as making repairs, and performing maintenance written into the lease.

The Tenant Damages the Property

Tenants are going to cause damage to the property; it’s unavoidable. Wear and tear when living in a home is normal. Still, there’s a difference between scratches on the wall or broken blinds, and intentional destruction of property.

If it’s clear that your tenant is causing severe damage to your property, such as breaking through walls or smashing windows, this may be cause for eviction. However, if your tenant makes repairs themselves, and doesn’t make any major changes to the property, this might not be grounds for eviction.

The Tenant Uses the Property for Illegal Purposes

If your tenant is using your Fort Myers property for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs or weapons, this can be clear grounds for eviction. Reporting the issue might also bring criminal charges against the tenant.

However, you should prepare to provide evidence that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If law enforcement came to the property to address these issues at any time, these reports can prove helpful.

How to Evict a Tenant in Fort Myers, Florida

If you want to evict a tenant for any reason, then you need to understand the eviction process. Here’s how it works.

Step 1. Check Your Local Laws

Eviction laws are different in each state and can also vary at the city level. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws before taking any action. Always ensure you have a legally valid reason for an eviction before giving notice. A qualified Fort Myers, FL attorney can help review your case to determine if you do.

Under Florida statute, a Fort Myers tenant has the right to withhold rent in certain circumstances. Specifically, this may occur if the landlord fails to make repairs or maintenance rendering the premises untenantable. The tenant must serve the landlord with a written notice declaring the premises to be wholly untenantable. This notice must give the landlord at least 20 days to make the repairs. It must also state that the tenant will withhold rent for the next period and thereafter until repairs are complete.

Step 2. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction

If you have tried to reason with your tenants and they continue to violate the terms of your lease, you should then provide them with a formal notice of eviction. Your eviction notice will serve as an ultimatum or final warning. It should explain how your tenant is in violation, as well as what they can do to stop the eviction process.

The eviction notice should also include a deadline for the tenant to either pay rent or move out, and the amount that the tenant owes. If you’re unsure of how to create an eviction notice, you can use online templates or seek legal advice.

The Lee County Clerk of Courts provides a detailed guide to evictions for non-payment of rent in Fort Myers. A Fort Myers landlord must begin an eviction by giving the tenant a written Notice of Termination for Failure to Pay Rent. Under the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act, the notice must allow the tenant three days to pay the rent or vacate. Keep in mind, a landlord may sue a tenant who refuses to comply. This is done by filing a complaint with the Clerk of Court. If the landlord wins in court, the court will issue a Writ of Possession. The Lee County Sheriff then posts this notice on the tenant’s rental home. If the tenant still doesn’t leave, the Sheriff can forcibly evict the tenant and padlock the door.

Step 3. File the Eviction with the Court

You must file the eviction notice with the court within a few days. The court will then set a hearing date and will notify the tenant of the hearing by a summons. Both the Lee County Court and the 20th Judicial Circuit Court can hear landlord/tenant cases in Fort Myers. However, the County Court handles most evictions in Fort Myers since it has exclusive jurisdiction over the right of possession of real property.

Step 4. Contact an Experienced Fort Myers, Florida Eviction Attorney and Prepare for the Hearing

You should find an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for the hearing. Then, when you go to the hearing, you should bring the following documents:

  • Lease agreements
  • Records of payments
  • Bounced checks
  • Record of communication between you and the tenant
  • Record of the eviction notice
  • Proof that the tenant received the notice

Step 5. Evict the Tenant

If you’ve won the hearing, your tenant will have time to move out of your property. The amount of time allowed is dependent on the state, but it typically ranges from 48 hours to one week. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can contact Fort Myers, FL law enforcement to forcibly remove them from the property.

Step 6. Collect Past-Due Rent Payments

If your tenant owes you rent money, you may still have a long fight ahead to collect past-due payments. You can try to collect these payments through a number of methods:

Work with an Experienced Eviction Attorney in Fort Myers, Florida

The tenant will likely try to argue that you did not follow proper procedures for providing an eviction notice. Having a qualified Fort Myers attorney on your side can take the pressure off your back, and help ensure a victory in court. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Florida state lines.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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