It is fairly common for tenants to fall behind on their rent in St. Augustine, the state of Florida, and all over the country. However, when this problem becomes serious and the tenant has not paid their rent in several months it may be time to evict them and begin the process of trying to find a new occupant. The procedure to do so is fairly straightforward and landlords usually win these cases by following a few simple steps. Generally, landlords who keep their buildings in good condition have little to worry about during this process.

Legitimate Reasons to Evict

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, a landlord’s responsibility is to essentially give written notice within the proper time period and then file a lawsuit with the clerk of the county that contains the residence. If these procedures are followed properly and the tenant has still not paid the rent, the local clerk can issue a writ to the sheriff’s department to serve an eviction notice within 24 hours. A landlord can also put certain other conditions in the lease about reasonable use of the property and not creating disturbances that can create grounds for eviction if the terms are violated. A tenant is normally given seven days to comply after receiving a formal notice of violating the lease conditions.

Are there any Defenses?

Most of a tenant’s defenses to non-payment of rent involve the property not being maintained properly to the point where it is uninhabitable, infestations of insects or rodents, or a recent disaster such as a hurricane. A recent issue was caught statewide attention when property management companies told tenants they had to leave the premises after Hurricane Michael due to widespread damage. These notices were illegal because even in cases of disasters or severe property damage, a landlord still has to go through the same procedure with the courts to evict a tenant. There are generally no shortcuts, and a tenant needs to voluntarily terminate their lease to leave after a disaster. Landlords need to be most careful of trying to force tenants out quickly or telling them they have to leave after reporting unsafe conditions on the property, as these acts are illegal and considered retaliatory evictions.

In most situations, if a tenant is simply unable to or refuses to pay rent when the dwelling is in good condition, they will be evicted within the timeframe given by law as long as notice is provided and the courts are involved. Therefore, as a business owner of a property management company or dwelling, it is best to make sure all units are free of issues with pests, mold, damaged plumbing, or other issues that may create uninhabitable units. As long as an apartment building or house is kept in livable condition, tenants will have to make timely rent payments or be evicted.

Contact a Business Lawyer

To speak with a business lawyer in St. Augustine, Florida who is experienced in evictions and landlord-tenant matters, contact Old City Law, PLLC. A knowledgeable lawyer can be the difference between being getting paid for the use of your property, versus having a tenant stay illegally. Old City Law can give advice based on the specifics of your situation with a tenant, building, or property management company and help you win.