By Aaron Swimmer

Landlords many times find themselves in the difficult position of having a tenant who is not paying rent, who is causing problems for other tenants, who is damaging the rental property, or whose conduct makes it unwise to continue the landlord-tenant relationship.
In Miami Beach, we have an expedited process for evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent. While it can still sometimes be frustratingly slow for a landlord who needs the rental income, the time it takes to get an eviction order through a summary proceeding for nonpayment of rent is still usually less than for any other eviction proceeding.

The process involves serving the tenant with a formal notice that the rent is overdue and that they face possible eviction. After the legally defined time period, if the rent has not been paid, the landlord can commence eviction proceedings on the basis of the nonpayment. This type of action generally results in an order for eviction

A common mistake sometimes made by landlords is accepting any payment during the eviction process. In Florida, the acceptance of any payment of rent, no matter how small, will result in the dismissal of the action for nonpayment.

When a tenant is not complying with the terms of a lease, it makes sense for the landlord to provide a written warning of the violation to the tenant and specify a fixed amount of time for the tenant to remedy the problem. This avoids the potential problem that a tenant can claim they did not know they were in violation of the lease. A judge may be sympathetic to the argument that the tenant complied with the lease once the nature of the violation was known but it becomes harder for tenants to make such an argument if they ignored prior notices and deadlines.

Additionally, providing the tenant with a written notice of a violation is often the cheapest way to resolve a problem. While there will occasionally be a problem tenant, whose pattern of conduct is such that the landlord will want to proceed with an eviction even if they comply with the most recent notice, having a record of prior written warnings should help convince a court that eviction is the proper remedy. Also, some tenants lie convincingly and it will help, for example, to document that a tenant was warned about owning a dog, if they otherwise intend to pretend to a court that they were merely dog sitting for a couple of days or that the dog belonged to a friend who was visiting. Remember that judges are people too, and that even the worst tenant can present a sympathetic face to the court.

Some tenants will bring a counter-claim against a landlord when threatened with eviction, claiming lease violations or inadequate maintenance of the property by the landlord and asking that the eviction proceedings be stopped or that they receive a rent abatement. Tenants may also allege violations of applicable laws, including protections against “retaliatory eviction” where the tenant has recently reported the landlord to a government agency for alleged housing violations. Again, it is good practice for landlords to keep written records of any complaints received by tenants about the property, and of the steps taken to resolve the problem. Good records can frustrate a tenant’s claim that they repeatedly complained about a problem with their unit and that the landlord did not respond.

Renting is a business and like any business it is not without pitfalls. It is a business, even more so than others, that benefits from “preventative lawyering”. We at Swimmer Law Associates, P.A., are experienced in all facets of landlord and tenant issues. Feel free to contact our office to discuss your special situations.