The world has been rocked by the impact of COVID-19. There are few aspects of life where this comes into sharper focus than housing. Because so many people are out of work and unable to meet their financial obligations, homes are being foreclosed on and renters are being evicted from their homes and apartments.
This has led to a lot of questions regarding how specific laws and moratoriums will impact evictions. For Floridians, understanding the eviction process in Florida – both as it typically stands and during this unprecedented time – can answer some of those questions and aid in sound decision-making.
Understanding the State and Federal Moratoriums
The first step in knowing how your individual case fits into the current state of the eviction process in Florida is understanding both the state and federal moratoriums that have been in place. A moratorium is an order – either at the state or federal level – that prevents a landlord from evicting a renter due to nonpayment of rent. These orders have been a huge relief for many during the pandemic.
Moratoriums, though, only prevent eviction – and only due to nonpayment of rent. It does not prevent eviction due to any other reason and it also does not prevent that rent from being due altogether. The monthly rent will continue to accrue unless the landlord independently decides to forgive it.
A state-level moratorium on Florida was set to end on August 1st, 2020, but was extended to September 1st 2020. There is a chance that it will be extended again, but as with the previous extension, it may not come until the proverbial eleventh hour. As with everything during this crisis, too, it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Will Backed-Up Courts Influence the Speed of the Eviction Process?
Because of the flood of renters who are now in danger of eviction due to the global pandemic, the courts who handle these cases will undoubtedly be overwhelmed. This has left many people to wonder – will this jump in the number of cases of potential evictions seriously impact the speed at which they’re handled?
It is important to realize that while a potential jam in the lines of cases making their way through the legal system right now could certainly slow things down, this isn’t a remedy to eviction. You cannot count on your case to be handled slower or to be overlooked because of bogged-down court systems. It is still vitally important to understand your responsibilities and rights regarding eviction so that you can navigate the process without undue confusion or stress.
What is the Eviction Process in Florida?
The first step in the Florida eviction process involves the landlord or leasing agent notifying the tenant of their non-payment or non-compliance with their lease terms. This must be done before a landlord can take action since the tenant will be granted a minimum of 3-15 days – depending on their county – to pay their debt before being evicted.
After the tenant has been served this notice, if they fail to make an attempt at payment or otherwise make arrangements, the landlord can then take legal action. The filing of the eviction lawsuit will typically take a minimum of 2-3 days. This can take much longer when courts are busy but will require at least a few days.
Once a court clerk has issued the legal summons for the involved defendants of the eviction suit, it will be served to those defendants. This may involve in-person delivery by either a designated party or the county sheriff. If, after two attempts at serving the summons in-person the court is unable to do so, the summons will be posted on the property itself. The tenant will then have a minimum of five days – excluding weekends and holidays – to respond to the summons.
If a tenant does not respond during this time, the eviction suit can be considered uncontested. This means the landlord can move forward with getting a final judgment against the tenant and have them legally removed. If the tenant does respond, they will be required to remit payment in part or in full and may be required to appear alongside the landlord in court.
In the instance of a tenant refusing or being unable to respond to the summons within the five-day period, they will then be served a 24-hour notice to vacate. They will then have 24-hours to collect their belongings fro the property. After this, the landlord will regain legal possession of the property, including the right to change locks and prevent the tenants from reentering.
Can Those in Danger of Eviction Buy Themselves Time?
Perhaps one of the most pressing questions that those in danger of eviction have is this: Is there anything I can do to buy myself more time?
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to buy time for those who are facing eviction. In the state of Florida, an eviction can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks, depending on the location of the residence and how busy the courts in that county are. However, counting on this timeline isn’t a good idea, since numerous factors can change it.
Bankruptcy is one way to prevent eviction since the automatic stay granted to those who file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy covers the collection of overdue rent and eviction from the property for financial reasons. This makes bankruptcy a solid choice for many renters who are struggling with debt, but this choice is less obvious during this confusing time. This is why speaking to a legal professional may be the best choice if you’re not certain.
If you’re still not sure how the laws regarding the eviction process in Florida may impact you, talk to the legal team at Van Horn Law Group.