Dealing with problematic tenants is a headache in the best scenarios. Late or missed rent payments, property damage, or other troublesome behavior can be a nightmare to deal with, but what happens when a tenant refuses to vacate your property? Can a tenant forestall eviction without making payments to the landlord? Here's what you need to know:
Understanding Eviction Law
Evictions aren't as cut and dry as just kicking out an unwanted tenant. Failing to take the appropriate steps during an eviction can lead to serious legal and financial consequences. Having the support of eviction law professionals can help prevent unforeseen issues and give you peace of mind.
Eviction laws may vary at the local, state, and federal level, so being familiar with the process is important for any landlord or property owner, regardless if you plan to evict a current tenant. Typically, a legal eviction first requires a written notice to vacate. It must include:
Reason for the eviction (non-payment, violation of the lease, illegal activity, etc.)
Time frame in which the tenant must remedy the issue or vacate the property
State regulations will define the minimum amount of time the landlord must grant a tenant before an eviction can be lawfully executed. Here in Florida, it depends on the cause of conviction. For tenants engaged in illegal activity on property or who have otherwise violated the lease, you must allow at least seven days for the tenant to either fix the issue or leave your property. Non-payment evictions only require three days for remedy or vacation.
However, providing written notice is only the first step of the eviction process. If your tenant fails to fix the issue or vacate on their own, your next step is to begin the official eviction process through the courts. The time it takes for a court to grant an eviction depends on the responsiveness and calendar of the judge and his/her staff. Once the eviction paperwork is filed with the court, your tenant may file a response against your claim and a hearing may be scheduled. In some cases, more than one hearing may be necessary to get a final ruling.
Forestalling an Eviction: Potential Legal Actions
There are a few ways a tenant may postpone an eviction that has advanced into the court system.
Hearing delays and extensions: as the defendant in an eviction case, your tenant may file for extensions or other motions which may delay the hearing process. They may request more time from the courts to gather evidence in their favor or provide other reasons for pushing back the hearing date. While this will not work in their favor in most cases, some extenuating circumstances may be cause for an exception. Otherwise, failure to adhere to the court’s requests can end in a default ruling in your favor, which is the best possible outcome in this scenario.
Appeals: if a tenant loses an eviction hearing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to vacate your property immediately. Most courts will allow a grace period of a few days to allow the tenant to file an appeal if they so choose. The tenant must cite an adequate legal reason for the appeal. The appeals process looks for errors in the interpretation of the law; it does not grant a new hearing to rehash the details of the case.
Once you have a legal ruling in your favor, it is very important that you do not attempt to take action into your own hands. So called ‘self-help evictions’ such as changing the locks on a unit, removing a tenant’s property, or taking other actions to enforce the order yourself are illegal and can backfire. Even if you suspect your tenant has abandoned the property, you must still follow proper steps to protect your legal interests.
At The Onyx Group Legal, we’re on your side. If you’re dealing with a nightmare tenant and need help navigating the eviction process, give us a call today.