Wrongful Evictions: A Guide for Landlords

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In the realm of landlord-tenant relationships, almost anything and everything can go wrong. When it does, landlords can protect themselves and their interests by understanding what is legally required for removing a tenant, and what constitutes “crossing the line.” With so much bad information being circulated about landlord-tenant laws, it is vitally important for landlord’s to comprehend the scope of their authority and how to handle problematic tenants, legally. If not, inexperienced landlords might find themselves unnecessarily defending against wrongful eviction claims. According to Sentry Water Systems, Inc., a wrongful eviction is “a wrongful act in he nature of a trespass…” Sentry Water Systems Inc., v. ADCA Corp., 355 So.2d 1255 (Fla. 2d DCA 1978).Wrongful evictions are directly tied to the tenant’s right of quiet enjoyment, which dictates that the tenant shall have the right to “peaceably and quietly enjoy the demised premises…” Barton v. Mitchell Co., 507 So.2d 148 (Fla. 4th DCA, 1987). This includes the right to be free of a landlord’s unwelcomed intrusion onto the tenant’s leased property. Id.

As a landlord, understanding tenant’s rights is a crucial factor in avoiding wrongful eviction claims. Here are some examples of actions that are grounds for wrongful evictions claims. Landlord’s cannot, directly or indirectly, terminate or interrupt any utility service furnished to the tenant. These services include, but are not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, etc…(See Florida Statute §83.67). Landlords cannot change locks to prevent tenants from accessing the premises. Id. Furthermore, retaliation of any kind by a landlord based on the conduct of a tenant is will be closely scrutinized, and may be grounds for a wrongful eviction claim by the tenant. (Florida Statute § 83.64). Wrongful eviction claims allow a tenant to bring a claim against a landlord for statutory damages plus recovery of their attorney’s fees.

There are, however, three clearly delineated circumstances where a landlord will have cause to remove a tenant. (Florida Statute § 83.20). A landlord may remove a holdover tenant; one that continues to occupy the premises after the expiration or termination of the tenancy and without the landlord’s permission. Id. Landlords may remove tenants that default in the payment of rent pursuant to the agreement, after providing adequate notice of the required payment. Id. Lastly, tenants that fail to cure a material breach of the lease agreement after of receiving notice of breach from the landlord and an opportunity to cure, may be removed from the premises. Id. This article is but a short overview of wrongful eviction laws in Florida that may aid landlord’s in better understanding the options that are available to them when dealing with problem tenants.

If you are a landlord in need of assistance with a residential or commercial tenant from lease to eviction, the attorneys at Law Offices of Oates & Oates, P.A., can assist you.

Jason Abitbol is a graduate student pursuing a Juris Doctorate degree at Nova Southeastern University College of Law in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a law clerk for the Law Offices of Oates & Oates, P.A.