When Is Summary Judgment Appropriate In A Florida Eviction Lawsuit?
In Florida, a landlord may seek to evict a tenant if they fail to pay rent or otherwise fail to comply with the terms of their lease. If the tenant does not voluntarily leave, the landlord must then file a civil lawsuit for “possession” of the rental property. This means the tenant is also entitled to notice of the lawsuit and an opportunity to defend themselves in court.
In some cases, the landlord may be able to obtain a summary judgment of eviction against a tenant without the need for a trial. This applies to cases where the eviction is based on non-payment of rent. Basically, unless the tenant’s defense is that they have paid the rent, they are required to pay the amount of unpaid rent into a court registry. This must be done within five days–excluding weekends and holidays–after receiving service of the eviction lawsuit. Failure to pay into the court registry constitutes a “waiver” of any defense the tenant might have to the eviction (except, again, that they already paid the rent to the landlord.) This waiver in turn means the landlord is entitled to summary judgment.
Second District Reverses Residential Eviction Order
This expedited eviction process does not apply to cases where eviction is sought based on failure to comply with non-rent terms of the lease. The Florida Second District Court of Appeal recently addressed this subject. In Crawford v. Grubb, a landlord sought eviction based on “various breaches of the lease such as parking and driveway violations, preventing landlord access for repairs, and so forth.” The landlord did not allege any failure to pay rent.
The tenant filed a timely answer to the lawsuit, denying the landlord’s allegations. For some reason, the trial judge granted the landlord’s request for a default judgment of eviction. This puzzled the Second District, as this was not a case involving a rent dispute.
More to the point, in any lawsuit a defendant has certain basic due process rights to be heard, which the trial judge here did not respect. The Second District noted there was a procedure for an “expedited determination” of eviction cases involving non-rent claims, but even that process still mandated a hearing and an opportunity for both sides to conduct discovery. As the tenant “received neither here,” the appellate court reversed the eviction judgment and returned the case to the lower court for further proceedings.
Speak with a Florida Landlord-Tenant Attorney Today
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, it is important that you understand the obligations of your lease and the conditions that could lead to a potential eviction. And if you are involved in an eviction proceeding it is crucial to work with an experienced Sarasota landlord-tenant lawyer who can guide you through the process and help ensure that the courts respect your rights. Contact Moran, Sanchy & Associates today to schedule a confidential case evaluation with a member of our team.