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TENANT HELP

The CDC Moratorium has Ended. What are my rights?

The CDC Order declaring a moratorium on most evictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was terminated by the U.S. Supreme Court on August 26, 2021. There are very few protections for tenants in Florida facing eviction.

If you have received notice from your landlord asking you to pay rent or move out or if your landlord files an eviction lawsuit against you, you should immediately contact Legal Aid to see if we can provide you with legal assistance.

Click here to apply for our services online. 

For self-help resources please visit floridalawhelp.org. You can also visit our YouTube channel for self-help videos explaining the eviction process.

For Tenants Facing Eviction

If you have been served with an Eviction, below is helpful information to learn about your rights. 

OVERVIEW OF EVICTIONS

A landlord in Florida can evict a tenant for a number of different reasons, including not paying rent, violating the lease or rental agreement, or committing an illegal act.

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Florida law when evicting a tenant. A landlord cannot force a tenant to move without going through the specific requirements of an eviction action:

STEP ONE: The first step in a legal eviction is for the landlord to send a written notice. Different types of notices and procedures are needed for different situations.

STEP TWO:  The tenant is served with a summons and complaint. The complaint and a summons are served upon the tenant by the sheriff or authorized process server.

STEP THREE: The tenant has 5 days to submit a written response, called an answer, to the complaint. The 5 day period begins on the date after the tenant was served and does not included weekends and legal holidays. The tenant      must also deposit with the court the amount of rent alleged in the complaint to be owed unless the defense is that the tenant has paid the landlord. Need assistance with drafting the answer to your eviction complaint? Use this Eviction Answer Builder

STEP FOUR: If the tenant files an answer, the court will schedule a hearing to decide whether an order for eviction should be issued. A notice of the hearing date will be mailed to all parties.

STEP FIVE:  If the landlord wins, the landlord will obtain a Judgment for Possession. If the tenant prevails in the hearing, the tenant will continue to pay rent under the current lease and remain   in possession of the rental unit.

STEP SIX:  If a Judgment for Possession is entered, the court will issue a Writ of Possession to the sheriff. The sheriff then posts the writ on the tenant’s premises and the tenant has 24 hours to vacate, after which the sheriff may forcibly evict the tenant.

EVICTION FOR FAILURE TO PAY RENT

After you miss a rent payment, your landlord must give you written notice and wait three days, not counting Saturday, Sunday or legal holidays, before proceeding in court with an action for eviction. If you pay rent within the three day limit, then your landlord must accept the rent and drop the eviction proceedings. Note, however, that the landlord need not accept less than the full amount owed. If your landlord accepts the full rent from you even after the three days, then he gives up his right to evict or end the agreement during that rent period, but he can always issue a new Three Day Notice if you are ever late again.

If you fail to pay rent or vacate within the 3 Day Period then your landlord is entitled to pursue an Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent, in which case you may be served with a Summons and Complaint for Eviction.  You will have five business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) to respond to the Complaint.  Please note that your five days begin the day after you were served.

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE THREE DAY NOTICE

  • The Three Day Notice will give you three days to pay the rent owed or move out.
  • The Three Day Notice must be delivered to you, in writing, and include the following information:
    • A statement that you did not pay rent when it was due. The exact amount of rent due.
    • The landlord’s name, address, and telephone number.
    • The date the payment is due.
  • The three day period may not include Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays.
  • Your landlord may hand deliver, post the notice on your door, or mail the notice to you.
  • If you receive the Three Day Notice by mail, the landlord must give you an additional 5 days to comply with the notice due to mailing time.

EVICTION FOR CAUSE: VIOLATION OF THE RENTAL AGREEMENT OR LANDLORD TENANT ACT

In addition to non-payment of rent, an eviction can be based on a violation of a provision of the lease, rules incorporated into the lease, or an applicable statute. Expiration of the lease or failure to vacate upon notice to terminate a periodic tenancy may also give rise to an eviction.

The Landlord Tenant Act divides tenant breaches into two categories: (1) curable violations and (2) noncurable violations.

  • Curable means that the tenant gets a chance to solve the problem. Curable noncompliances include: unauthorized pets, unauthorized guests, and not keeping the dwelling sanitary. In the case of a curable condition, your landlord must give you seven days in which to fix it. However, if you commit the same noncompliance again within twelve months, your landlord may then evict you without another chance to cure.
  • Noncurable means that the tenant does not get a chance to solve the problem. Noncurable noncompliances include: Destruction, damage, or intentional misuse of the landlord’s or other tenants’ property, or receipt of a prior Seven Day Notice for the same conduct within a 12 month period.

If you commit a serious act endangering the property or a crime, or if you fail to correct a problem after written notice from the landlord, your landlord still must go to court to pursue an eviction. Again, it is important to understand that a landlord CANNOT EVICT YOU OUT WITHOUT A COURT ORDER. In the instance of an Eviction for Cause, you will be served with a Summons and Complaint for Eviction and you will have five business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) to respond to the Complaint.

Information and Resources for Tenants

We have published a GUIDE for tenants on a range of subjects including the eviction process, security deposits, prohibited practices under the landlord tenant statute and the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF TENANTS

In Florida, residential tenancies are governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes under what is commonly known as “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.” This state law sets forth certain responsibilities and rights that may not be waived in a rental agreement. It’s important to know that you have rights as a renter, and that your landlord has certain obligations to make sure that your home is safe and livable.

LIVING CONDITIONS

First and foremost, the landlord is required to rent a dwelling that is fit to be lived in. Namely, there is a statutory duty to maintain the premises and to comply with the applicable building, housing, and health codes. Where there are no applicable building codes, the landlord is required to maintain the structural components and plumbing in good repair. There is also an obligation for the landlord to install working smoke detectors and screens.

The above requirements don’t apply to mobile homes owned by the tenant, and they may be modified in writing for duplexes and single family homes. As for apartments, the landlord will also make reasonable provisions for:

  • Extermination of rats, mice, ants, wood-destroying organisms & bed bugs,
  • Locks and keys,
  • Clean and safe conditions of common areas,
  • Garbage disposal facilities and outside receptacles, and
  • Functioning facilities for running water, hot water and heat during water.

However, it should be noted that although the landlord must arrange these services, he can require you to pay for them.

Generally, a tenant can enforce these obligations and there is a right under certain very aggravated circumstances caused by the landlord’s neglect, to withhold rent.

However, if you can still live in the rental unit despite the problem, then you should first write your landlord and explain the situation, advising him or her of any housing codes being violated. Sending a letter like this is the best way to get repairs done.

ACCESS TO PREMISES

A tenant has a basic right of privacy and peaceful possession in their rental homes. However, there are circumstances under which a landlord must be allowed access.

Under Florida state law (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.53), landlords can enter rented premise in the following circumstances:

  • In case of emergency, such as a fire or serious water leak
    To make needed inspections and repairs
  • Pursuant to a court order
  • If the landlord has reasonable cause to believe the tenant has abandoned the premises
  • When reasonably necessary during a tenant’s extended absence, defined as one-half the time for periodic rental payments, given that that the tenant did not notify the landlord of the absence, or to show the property to prospective new tenants, purchasers or contractors.

In these circumstances, a tenant cannot unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the rental unit. That said, unless there is an emergency, (i.e., something serious and requiring immediate attention, like leaking gas, or a broken water pipe), the landlord must enter the rental unit on reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time to make repairs to the premises.

  • “Reasonable Notice” is defined as 12 hours prior to entry;
  • “Reasonable Time” is defined as between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

TENANT’S OBLIGATIONS

Florida Statutes, Section 83.52, requires you as a tenant to comply with the following:

  1. Keep the home or apartment in a clean and sanitary manner.
  2. Remove all garbage from the home or apartment in a clean and sanitary manner (for example, use garbage cans).
  3. Keep all plumbing fixtures in the home or apartment used by you in a clean and sanitary manner and in good repair.
  4. Properly use and operate all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, which are in the home or apartment.
  5. Not destroy, damage or in any way misuse the property itself. This includes not permitting any of your guests to do so either.
  6. Not remove anything from the house or apartment which does not belong to you (for example, cannot remove light fixture which was in the property when you moved in).
  7. Conduct yourself, and require other persons on the premises with your consent to conduct themselves, in a manner that does not unreasonably disturb your neighbors or constitute a breach of the peace.

The landlord must notify you in writing of any perceived noncompliance with the above obligations or any obligations set forth in the rental agreement.

  • If the issue can be corrected, the tenant will have seven days in which make the correction. If the tenant still has not complied after seven days, the landlord can begin the eviction process based on noncompliance.
  • If the issue is one in which the tenant should not be given an opportunity to correct it (i.e., destruction, damage, intentional misuse or continued unreasonable disturbance), the tenant will have seven days to surrender the premises.

 In addition to finding helpful information on our YouTube page, you can also find information in our Landlord Tenant Resource Guide (PDF document) this PDF is not a substitution for legal advice for your specific legal issue.

 If your landlord sued to evict you during the pandemic and the court paused the eviction. There are a few things that may happen now to continue to process:

  • The court might set a status hearing to inquire about your circumstances;
  • The court might require you to deposit all unpaid rent into the registry to avoid an eviction judgement;
  • The court might set your case for a final hearing to determine whether you still owe any rent; or
  • If a final judgment was previously entered the landlord may ask the court to issue a writ of possession;

Where can I locate rental assistance?

If you have been financially impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, you may be eligible for rental assistance from Palm Beach County Department of Community Services at www.rentalassistancepbc.org.

Legal Aid of Palm Beach has limited financial assistance for undocumented tenants and families with children who are facing eviction.  You may contact us at: 561-655-8944 ext. 328 to see if you qualify.

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ISSUES FOR HOMEOWNERS IMPACTED BY COVID

On September 27, 2021, the FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION ADDED ADDITIONAL COVID-19 FORBEARANCE RELIEF OPTIONS

FHA press release announced, there are new and extended COVID-19 relief options for borrowers recently or newly struggling to make their mortgage payments because of the pandemic and for senior homeowners with Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) who need assistance to remain in their homes.

Specifically, FHA made the following changes:

  • A new COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension period for borrowers who may be newly affected by the pandemic: FHA is now providing up to six months of COVID-19 Forbearance for borrowers requesting an initial COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension from their mortgage servicer between October 1, 2021, and the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency, and an additional six months if the COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension is exhausted and expires before the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency.
  • An additional COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension period for borrowers recently seeking assistance: FHA is now providing up to six months of additional forbearance for borrowers who requested or will request an initial COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension from their mortgage servicer between July 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, allowing these borrowers up to a maximum of 12 months of COVID-19 Forbearance or HECM Extension.

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