Tenants’ Rights: Navigating an Eviction for Unpaid Rent

Tenants’ Rights When Navigating an Eviction for Unpaid Rent

 

As a tenant, you are responsible for paying your rent on time. If, however, you have fallen behind on your rent payments, you still have rights. Your landlord cannot evict you without giving you proper written notice and then obtaining an eviction judgment from a judge in court. Only after the judge enters an eviction order can the landlord request law enforcement to come to the property to enforce the eviction order.

Question: What are the steps my landlord must take to complete the eviction process?

Answer: Before filing an eviction lawsuit against you, your landlord MUST give you a written 3 DAY NOTICE for nonpayment of rent. The written notice must state that you have 3 days to pay the rent or move out.  If you pay within these 3 days (not including weekends and court holidays), your landlord cannot evict you.

Q: What if I can’t pay the full amount within the 3 DAY NOTICE period?

A: If you do not pay the full amount due or voluntarily vacate the premises within the 3 day time period, the landlord can file an eviction action against you in county court. Talk with your landlord immediately about whether the landlord will take partial rent or allow you to create a payment plan. In some cases, communicating and showing good faith efforts to your landlord that you are committed and working towards paying the full amount due, may convince them to hold off on the eviction process.

You should also immediately apply for rental assistance through your local ERAP if your city or county has one. (Information on the local Florida ERAPs is available here.) If possible, working together with your landlord to apply for Emergency Rental Assistance may also help convince your landlord to hold off on the eviction process.

Q: What if I pay part of the rent due?

A: If you pay part of the amount of rent due within the 3 day time period your landlord may still file for eviction if they:

  • Give you a receipt with the balance of the rent due BEFORE filing the eviction;
  • Place the rent into the court registry when they file eviction; or
  • Post a new 3 Day Notice for nonpayment. You will then have three more days to pay (excluding weekends and court holidays).

Q: My landlord filed an eviction complaint after I was unable to pay the rent during the 3 day time period. What do I do now?

A: After you are served with a summons and complaint, you must respond within 5 days (excluding weekends and court holidays) if you wish to contest the eviction case. You must also pay the amount of rent the landlord says you owe into the court registry. Not responding in a timely manner will result in a default judgment, which means you will not see a judge and you will be evicted.

The Eviction Defense Form Builder at FloridaEvictionHelp.org can help you draft your response and complete court forms needed to timely preserve defenses and request court-ordered stays of eviction.

Q: What if I disagree with the amount my landlord claims I owe?

A: If you disagree with the amount, pay the amount you think is due and file a Motion to Determine Rent along with your Answer to the Eviction Complaint. It is important to attach documentation to support your position about the correct amount you owe. Make sure to call the judge’s office and speak with the judicial assistance to schedule a court date for the judge to review your motion and determine how much rent you must deposit into the court registry.

Remember that answering and paying rent into the court registry does not ensure that you will win your case. You must have a legally sufficient reason for unpaid rent. Not having the money is not legally sufficient. It is best to seek legal assistance as soon as you receive a 3 DAY NOTICE.

If you think you may receive an eviction notice or need help with a housing legal issue, request services online from GLS.

Please note:

These questions and answers are provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without information about your specific situation. 

The work that provided the basis for this information was supported by funding under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government.

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