Self-Help Eviction is Prohibited Under Florida Law
In Florida, in almost all cases involving the legal right to possession of real property, an owner or landlord must obtain a court order of eviction to lawfully regain possession of the property. Florida eviction law specifically forbids an owner or landlord from taking action to evict without a court order. Action such as: turning off utilities, changing locks on doors, or moving tenant's belonging out of the apartment are prohibited practices according to Florida eviction law 83.67 and are considered by court to be 'self-help' eviction practices and are illegal in Florida.
When dealing with a non-paying or non-compliant tenant, the landlord may be tempted to resort to 'self-help' measures to evict a tenant.
Under Florida eviction laws, tenants do have certain rights - even in cases where the tenant owes rent, create noise or cause other problems. If you are trying to evict a tenant, you must adhere to statutory or lease deadlines and procedures. see also Landlord Rights and Tenant Responsibilities
The landlord must refrain from doing any of the following 'self-help' eviction actions:
A landlord of any dwelling unit governed by this part shall not cause, directly or indirectly, the termination or interruption of any utility service furnished the tenant, including, but not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, elevator, garbage collection, or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of, or payment is made by, the landlord. F.S. 83.67(1)
Landlord Shall Not Change Locks Without Court Order
F.S. 83.67(2) Changing Locks to the Property
A landlord of any dwelling unit governed by this part shall not prevent the tenant from gaining reasonable access to the dwelling unit by any means, including, but not limited to, changing the locks or using any bootlock or similar device. F.S. 83.67(2)
A landlord shall not prohibit a tenant from displaying one portable, removable, cloth or plastic United States flag, not larger than 4 and 1/2 feet by 6 feet, in a respectful manner in or on the dwelling unit regardless of any provision in the rental agreement dealing with flags or decorations. The United States flag shall be displayed in accordance with s. 83.52(6). The landlord is not liable for damages caused by a United States flag displayed by a tenant. Any United States flag may not infringe upon the space rented by any other tenant. F.S. 83.67(4)
A landlord of any dwelling unit governed by this part shall not remove:
the outside doors,
windows of the unit
except for purposes of maintenance, repair, or replacement; and the landlord shall not remove the tenant’s personal property from the dwelling unit unless such action is taken after surrender, abandonment, recovery of possession of the dwelling unit due to the death of the last remaining tenant in accordance with s. 83.59(3)(d), or a lawful eviction.
If provided in the rental agreement or a written agreement separate from the rental agreement, upon surrender or abandonment by the tenant, the landlord is not required to comply with s. 715.104 and is not liable or responsible for storage or disposition of the tenant’s personal property; if provided in the rental agreement, there must be printed or clearly stamped on such rental agreement a legend in substantially the following form:
BY SIGNING THIS RENTAL AGREEMENT, THE TENANT AGREES THAT UPON SURRENDER, ABANDONMENT, OR RECOVERY OF POSSESSION OF THE DWELLING UNIT DUE TO THE DEATH OF THE LAST REMAINING TENANT, AS PROVIDED BY CHAPTER 83, FLORIDA STATUTES, THE LANDLORD SHALL NOT BE LIABLE OR RESPONSIBLE FOR STORAGE OR DISPOSITION OF THE TENANT’S PERSONAL PROPERTY.
Landlord Shall Be Liable to Tenant for 'Self-Help' Eviction
F.S. 83.67(6) Landlord Liable for 'Self-Help' Eviction
Landlord who violates any provision of this section shall be liable to the tenant for actual and consequential damages or 3 months’ rent, whichever is greater, and costs, including attorney’s fees. Subsequent or repeated violations that are not contemporaneous with the initial violation shall be subject to separate awards of damages. F.S. 83.67(6)
Under certain circumstances, if the tenant exhibits a lack of consideration for the rights and privacy of others, the landlord has the right to require the tenant to move with very little notice.
Comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building, housing, and health codes.
Keep that part of the premises which he or she occupies and uses clean and sanitary.
Remove from the tenant’s dwelling unit all garbage in a clean and sanitary manner.
Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant clean and sanitary and in repair.
Use and operate in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators.
Not destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the premises or property therein belonging to the landlord nor permit any person to do so.
Conduct himself or herself, and require other persons on the premises with his or her consent to conduct themselves, in a manner that does not unreasonably disturb the tenant’s neighbors or constitute a breach of the peace.
In some cases (like destruction, damage, misuse of property, unreasonable disturbance), the landlord does not have to give the tenant an opportunity to remedy the problem and the landlord may terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant a seven-day written notice.
Each eviction case is unique, so be sure to obtain legal advice. A Landlord may not evict a tenant solely in retaliation for the tenant complaining to a governmental agency about code violations or asserting other tenant rights.