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How to Evict a Tenant in Palm Beach County Florida
1. Landlord must send all Tenants a three (3) Day Notice for failure to pay rent wherein the tenant has three (3) days to pay rent or vacate premises. This Notice can be posted on the door of the premises or personally delivered to the tenant or to adult occupant of premises. Service of the Notice can be accomplished by the Landlord, its agent, or by using a Process Server. Be sure to follow the Florida Statutes requirements regarding the contents of the Three (3) Day Notice requirements. The 3 day notice must include the Florida statutory language, the amount of rent due, the Tenant’s name and address, and date of deadline to remit payment.(See blog on Landlord/Tenant Notices: Seven (7) Day Notice to Cure Violations and Fifteen (15) Day Notice of Termination of Lease).
2. After waiting three (3) days from the date of service or posting of the 3 Day Notice (do not count the first day of service and do not include weekends and legal holidays) you can proceed to file the Eviction Complaint, Count 1 for possession only. The Complaint for Eviction is filed in the County Court where the property is located. An Eviction Complaint with a Count 1 for possession only is done to expedite getting possession of the premises because it is subject to summary procedure, which means that the Tenant only has five (5) days to respond to the Eviction Complaint. The Summons also states the time limitation for Tenants’ response. A civil cover sheet must also be filled out and filed with the court. Included in the Service Package is the Civil Cover Sheet, Complaint, and Summons all filed with the Court and Served on Tenants. You can also serve this package on “Unknown Tenant #1” if there are other occupants in the property that you do not have their names or identification.
3. If the Eviction Complaint includes a Count 2 for damages, then the Tenant would have 20 days to file a response to the Complaint; which slows down the process of getting possession of the premises. It is better to get possession of the premises as quickly as possible, so that the Landlord can rent the property to someone else in order to start collecting rent. After possession is obtained by the Landlord, the Landlord can make a claim on the security deposit within 30 days of the vacate date for unpaid rent and legal fees as well as for damages to the property. The Landlord should have proof of the damages claimed, pictures, receipts for repairs and repair estimates; however, ordinary wear and tear is not sufficient for a claim against the security deposit. Pursuant to Florida Statute, if the Landlord is not going to make a claim against the security deposit then the Landlord should return the entire security deposit to the Tenant within fifteen (15) days of the vacate date. If the Landlord is making a claim against the security deposit, the Landlord has thirty (30) days to make a claim against the security deposit. (See Security Deposit Blog)
4. If the five (5) days have passed since the Service of Process on Tenants and the Tenant has not filed a response, such as an answer to the complaint or a motion to dismiss, then attorney can file a Motion for Clerk’s Default for the Tenant’s failure to respond as required by law. The Clerk of Court will enter a Clerk’s default within 3-5 days. Then you must also obtain a Certificate of Mailing from the Clerk before filing the Motion for Clerk’s Default. The Certificate of Mailing is obtained by mailing a letter to the clerk of court with a copy of the Complaint, Affidavit of Service, two stamped envelopes, and copy of the proposed Certificate of Mailing. After receiving the Certificate of Mailing, you should file an Affidavit of Non-Military Service and the Military Status Report, along with filing the Motion for Clerk’s Default. The Military Status Report can be obtained from the website at: https://scra.dmdc.osd.mil/
5. After the clerk of court enters the Clerk’s Default, you should file a Motion for Default Final Judgment with the court. Then mail a package to the Judge including the Motion for Default Final Judgement, exhibits including the Clerk’s Default issued, 3 copies of the proposed Order granting the default final judgment, the Writ of Possession, and a check for $90.00 for the writ of possession fee made out to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (if the eviction is in Palm Beach County), and two stamped envelopes addressed to the Tenant and yourself.
6. After the Court grants the Motion for Default Final Judgment, and sends/records the court’s Order; the court will issue the Writ of Possession. The Sheriff’s Office will post the Writ at the premises and will contact the Landlord to arrange a date and time to go to the property in order to execute the Writ of Possession. The Sheriff will then meet the Landlord at the property and remove all occupants and their items; the Tenants items/belongings will be put on the sidewalk or curb. The Landlord should also change the locks to secure the premises at this time. If the Tenant vacates the property before the execution of the Writ of Possession, be sure to comply with the Florida Statutes regarding abandoned property. (See blog on Abandoned Property)
7. If the Tenant files an Answer or Motion to Dismiss to the Complaint for Eviction, the Court will schedule a mandatory Mediation and Rent Determination Hearing (Palm Beach County Court). Typically, the Court requires the Landlord to be present at the Mediation and Rent Determination Hearing. Please see the Court Order Setting Mediation and Hearing for details. If the Landlord is not able to attend, file an Ex-Partee Motion for Telephonic Appearance by mailing a package to the Judge with a copy sent to the tenant; this package includes a Letter to the Judge, the Ex-Parte Motion for Telephonic Appearance, and 3 copies of the proposed Order granting the telephonic appearance, and two stamped envelopes address to you and to the Tenant.
8. Prepare for the Mediation and Rent Determination Hearing by reviewing the Lease (if there is a written Lease) or writing down the terms of the verbal rental agreement, date of rental payments, amount of rental payments, and draft a list of missed rental payments showing the dates and amounts due. Bring any other documents or evidence you have to prove the amount of rent due and owing, such as Checks, returned checks, copies of money orders, and receipts of payments, or bank statements. At Mediation, be sure to explain to the Tenant that the prevailing party is entitled to attorney fees in order to apply pressure on the tenant to settle this matter.
9. The Landlord should try to resolve this matter prior to the Mediation and Hearing Date by way of a Stipulation Agreement in order to save time and attorney fees. If the Parties can agree on terms to settle their dispute prior to the Mediation or at the Mediation, a Stipulation Agreement will be drafted and signed by both parties and/or the parties attorneys. The Stipulation Agreement will include dates of payment, the Tenant’s vacate date, may provide for the payment of attorney fees in addition to the rental payments, and terms of default/non-compliance with the terms of the Agreement. If the parties agree to the proposed Stipulation Agreement prior to the Mediation date, the Stipulation will need to be filed with the Court and a package must be sent to the Judge for approval of the stipulation. This package includes a letter to the Judge asking for approval of the Stipulation Agreement, an executed copy of the Stipulation Agreement, 3 copies of the Order Approving the Stipulation, and two stamped envelopes addresses to you and the Tenant. After the Judge approves the Stipulation Agreement the court will enter an Order granting and approving the Stipulation and then the Court dismisses the case. Be sure to include terms within the Stipulation Agreement regarding the Tenant’s default and the automatic entry of Writ of Possession upon such default by the Tenant in order to ensure compliance with the terms of the Stipulation Agreement.
10. If the parties cannot resolve this matter at Mediation; the mediator will declare an impasse and provide a report to the Judge stating such. If the Tenant does not attend the Mediation, the Judge may enter Final Judgment against the Tenant. At the Rent Determination Hearing the Judge will ask both parties questions in order to determine the amount of the rent due, the frequency and dates of rental payments; after which the Judge will enter an order stating the amount of rent that the Tenant is to Deposit into the Court’s Registry on a certain date thereafter and until the case is resolved. The amount of rent the Tenant must pay into the Court’s registry is usually higher than the regular rental payment because the clerk of court charges a fee to deposit funds into the Court’s Registry. If the Tenant fails to deposit the requisite amount of funds into the court’s registry by the date set by the Judge’s Order; the Landlord can file a Motion for Default Final Judgment for tenant’s failure to comply with the Court’s Order for failing to deposit the rent amount determined; wherein the Court may grant such motion and issue the Writ of Possession.
11. If this matter is not resolved by way of a Stipulation Agreement or at Mediation, the case will be set for a Final Hearing/Bench trial before the presiding Judge. At Trial both sides may present their evidence and testimony, and question witnesses if present. At the conclusion of Trial the Judge will render a decision and enter an Order regarding its decision. Such final Order may include the amount of rent payments due and owing, the date of payment, and the date the Tenant is to vacate the premises. The Court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the Court’s Order if a party fails to comply with the terms of the Court’s Order. (See blog on Enforcing Court Orders and Debt Collection-Collecting on a Judgment)
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