A guide to County Civil
The County Civil Department maintains the records and documentation for cases involving eviction law suits, small claims and other civil law suits less than $15,000, car repair disputes, release of personal property and payment information for judgments. For further information see Landlord/Tenant and Eviction Law Suits. Also see the Florida Bar Web-Site in regards to Tenant rights and Landlord rights.
Some frequently asked questions
Can I file a case for someone else or in someone else’s behalf?
The party who the money is owed must file the case. A parent or guardian may file on behalf of a minor. Only an attorney can file a case in behalf of someone else.
I want to evict my son, daughter, girlfriend, boyfriend etc. from my house that I am living in. How do I do that?
Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes deals with rental property that is owned and rented to another party. If someone is living in your house and you no longer want him or her there, an eviction may not be the procedure to follow. You may need to contact an Attorney. Call Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-342-8011 for help in locating an Attorney.
Someone hit my car and I want to sue his or her insurance company for my repair bills?
You have to sue the owner and driver of the vehicle that hit your car. It would be the responsibility of the owner to bring in their insurance company.
How does Mediation work?
Before the Judge hears a case he will refer it to Mediation. A mediator will listen to both sides of the case to see if it can be resolved. If you were ordered by the Judge to go to Mediation, you MUST attend or further court actions may occur for not attending. If the mediator cannot resolve the case, it may refer back to the Judge for final hearing. In some cases a mediation fee may be assessed.
How do I get my money when a judgment is rendered in my favor?
Several methods can be initiated to attempt collection. A certified copy of a Judgment can be recorded to act as a lien on real property. The judgment is to be recorded with the Department of State. A Writ of Execution may be requested to direct the sheriff to levy on property owned by the defendant. (There is an Issuance Fee for Writs). Garnishment is another option to collect money from a bank account or wages. (Fee required for Garnishment). The Clerk’s Office does not provide forms or assistance for garnishment actions.
Can my landlord evict me when there are so many repairs that need to be made?
The landlord and tenant have obligations set out in Florida Statutes 83.51 and 83.52. If the rental agreement is to be terminated, the statutes also outline the procedures for terminating a rental agreement in Florida Statute 83.56.
I am being evicted and I was told I have to be out tomorrow. Is this true?
After a Judgment is signed and a Writ of Possession is issued and served on the tenant, the tenant has 24 hours to vacate unless the Judge stays the eviction proceedings. The sheriff will authorize the landlord to remove all personal belongings from the house after 24 hours and give possession of the property back to the landlord.
I found out that there is a Judgment against me. How do I pay it off and whom do I pay it to? How much do I pay? Why wasn’t I notified that I have a Judgment against me?
When a judgment is signed, copies of the judgment are mailed out to all parties in the case at the last known address in the court file. If you have moved and did not notify the court of your current address, you may not receive notification of the judgment. If you want to pay the Judgment you are required to pay the full amount plus interest at the legal rate from the date the judgment was signed. The amount would be paid to the plaintiff or their attorney.
If they cannot be found and you prove that a diligent search has been made, you can deposit the full amount into the Court Registry (plus fees), and then the Clerk’s Office will prepare a Satisfaction of Judgment.
When a drivers license is revoked due to a Judgment, does it last for the life of the Judgment?
The State of Florida Bureau of Financial Responsibility handles the revoking of drivers licenses resulting from a judgment. You can contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Bureau of Financial Responsibility at (850) 488-7135.
I had a judgment entered against me and the sheriff is going to levy. What can the Sheriff levy on?
There are exemptions as to what the sheriff can and cannot levy on. The Sheriff’s Office, Civil Process Department, will be able to give you more information at (352) 486-5111.
I am a landlord and the tenant has moved out and left some personal property in the rental unit. Can I remove their personal property from the premises?
To protect you from any further legal action, the landlord should file a formal eviction. When the sheriff serves the final paperwork (Writ of Possession) on the tenant, the landlord is then authorized to remove anything left in the rental unit. However, due care should be taken in handling disposition of contents.
Can I withhold my rent payment until the landlord repairs the rental unit?
If you withhold the rent, the landlord will probably file an eviction to have you removed. When you are served with the summons, you will have five (5) working days to file an answer with the Clerk’s Office and deposit all rent that is due into the Court Registry.
The court will then decide on your case. Florida Statute 83.201 refers to withholding rent. If the eviction case is still active and you still live in the rental unit, you must continue to place your rent in the Court Registry each time it becomes due.
How do I reschedule a hearing that I cannot attend?
Contact the Attorney, If there is one in the case, and see if he/she will agree to a continuance. If not, you may file a request for continuance with the Clerk’s Office for review by the judge.
Oral and Written Leases
A lease is an agreement to rent property. It may be written or oral. Most are written, however, because oral agreements can be subject to misunderstandings. A written lease can be in the form of a formal contract or simply a copy of a letter that states the rights and obligations of both tenant and landlord. Florida law requires that most notices to and from a landlord must be in writing, even if the rental agreement is oral. In cases where there is no written lease, the term of the rental payment schedule (monthly, weekly, etc.) determines the length of the agreement. See “Termination of Tenancy”.
Access to the Premises
Once a tenant leases a dwelling, the right to possession is much the same as ownership. The landlord, however, can enter at reasonable times and with proper notice to inspect, repair, supply agreed upon services, or show the premises to a prospective or actual purchaser or tenant, mortgagee, workman or contractor.
Landlord’s Obligation to Maintain Premises
If the unit is a single family home, duplex, or mobile home, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing, a landlord must:
- Comply with building, housing, and health codes.Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes maintain the roof, floors, windows, screens, and all other structural components in good repair, and the plumbing in reasonable working condition.
If the unit is other than a single family home, duplex, or mobile home, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing, a landlord must:
- Provide for the extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants and wood destroying organisms.
- Provide running water and hot water.
- Remove garbage from the premises.
- Provide a smoke detection device.
- Provide locks and keys.
- Provide a working heating system.
- Provide clean and safe condition of common area.
Tenant’s Obligation to Maintain Premises
A tenant must:
- Comply with housing and health codes.
- Keep the dwelling clean.
- Remove garbage from the dwelling unit.
- Keep plumbing repaired.
- Do not destroy, damage or deface premises.
- Occupy the dwelling without disturbing the peace.
- Not abuse the electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning or other systems furnished the landlord.
A tenant may be able to withhold the rent if the landlord fails to do what the law or the lease requires. A tenant must announce his/her intention by certified mail at least seven (7) days before the rent is due to allow the landlord time to remedy the problem. If the problem is not corrected within the seven (7) days and the tenant withholds the rent, the landlord may take the tenant to court to collect it. Under these circumstances, the tenant must pay into the Court Registry the amount of rent due, pending the judge’s ruling on the case.
A tenant can be evicted for not complying with the terms of the lease. Depending on the offense, the process for removal varies.
Failure to Meet Lease Obligations
Except for the failure to pay rent, a landlord must notify a tenant in writing of the short- comings and give the tenant seven (7) days to correct the situation. If the tenant does not reply within seven (7) days, the landlord can begin the eviction process.
Non Payment of Rent
The landlord must serve the tenant with written notice allowing three (3) days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) for payment of the rent or vacation of the premises. If the tenant does not pay within three (3) days, the landlord may begin the eviction process. The landlord must file suit in the Clerk’s Office of the county in which the dwelling is situated. The tenant then has five (5) days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) to respond in writing to the court. If there is no response from the tenant, a judgment is entered against the tenant. The Clerk’s Office will issue a “Writ of Possession” to be served by the sheriff, notifying the tenant that the tenant will be evicted in 24 hours.
Florida law does not allow a landlord to force a tenant out by:
- Shutting off the utilities.
- Denying the tenant access to the premises by changing the locks.
- Removing the tenant’s personal property from the dwelling unless it is a lawful eviction.
- Removing outside doors, locks, roof, walls or windows (except for purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement).
Termination of Tenancy
Either party may terminate a tenancy without a specific duration by giving proper written notice, as follows:
- Yearly (not less than 60 days notice)
- Quarterly (not less than 30 days notice)
- Monthly (not less than 15 days notice)
- Weekly (not less than 7 days’ notice)
See Florida Statute 83.56(4).
- If you have a written rental agreement read it thoroughly before signing.
- If there are any changes to the written rental agreement, get them in writing.
- Keep receipts and records.
- Do a walk through before entering or vacating the premises.
- Take pictures of any questionable conditions.
- If you have a problem, put it in writing and proper form
See Florida Staute 83.51.
Visit www.pirg.org for The Renters’ Rights On-Line Handbook
Evictions Law Suits
If there is a written or verbal lease between the landlord and the tenant to pay rent, and the tenant fails to pay the rent, the landlord is required to give proper notice to the tenant. Notice forms are not provided by the Clerk’s Office, but may be obtained at most office supply stores.
See Florida Statute 83 (Landlord and Tenant).
See Florida Statute 723 (Mobile Home Park Lot Tenancies).
The landlord may serve the tenant with a Notice to Pay or Vacate. The notice signifies that an eviction suit will be filed if the tenant does not pay the back rent or move.
If the tenant fails to pay or move within the required time limit, a complaint may be filed for Removal of Tenant for Non Payment of Rent. There are three types of complaint forms. One is for the possession of the property only, the second is for possession of the property plus past due rent, and the third is for eviction for other than failure to pay rent. Information sheets and eviction complaint forms may be obtained from the County Civil Department. Once the eviction suit is filed, the sheriff will serve the tenant with a summons and a copy of the complaint.
A summons will be issued to the tenant/defendant directing them to file an answer and pay any past due rent into the Registry of the Court. If the landlord is asking for the rent and damages, an additional summons will be issued requiring an answer to be filed as to the damages.
The summons will direct the defendant to answer and deposit the amount in dispute into The Registry of Court within five (5) days after service of the summons and complaint. Only cash or cashier’s checks will be accepted as payment of rent. Failure to pay and/or answer may result in a judicial order for eviction without further notice.
The amount of Rent to be paid into The Registry of Court, a court date will be set as soon as possible.
If the case proceeds to a hearing, the Judge will hear testimony from both parties and render a decision. If the Judge orders the tenant to be evicted, the landlord may request the Clerk’s Office to issue a Writ of Possession. The Writ of Possession will be served by the sheriff and will allow the tenant 24-hours to move. If the tenant has not vacated within the 24-hour period, the sheriff can remove the tenant. A tenant may not be removed without a court order. The Judge may also allow the tenant additional time to move. A writ may not be issued until the proper amount of time has elapsed.
If the sheriff has to remove the tenant, the sheriff will contact the landlord regarding taking possession of the property. If the eviction is for a mobile home belonging to the tenant and is governed by Florida Statute 723, the writ will not be issued for ten (10) days.
A writ may not be issued without a court order.
The Clerk’s Office recommends you seek advice from an attorney regarding any Landlord-Tenant problems. If you need assistance in locating an attorney, call the Lawyers Referral Services at 1-800-342-8011.