Your Landlord Can’t Just Lock You Out: Understanding Florida “Self-Help” Evictions

So, you and your landlord have been arguing lately. You’ve been late on the rent and perhaps you’ve even violated other sections of your lease agreement, such as having a pet when you weren’t supposed to. You come home from work one day to find that the locks on your doors have been changed and the utilities are turned off. The point being even if you could get inside, the home wouldn’t be inhabitable.

Your landlord has taken extraordinary measures to remove you from the residence. And since you violated the lease and you were behind on your rent payments, you may even think he has the right to do this since he owns the property. However, Florida law says otherwise — he most certainly does not have that right.

In the scenario above, the landlord has committed what is known as a “Self-Help Eviction.” A self-help eviction can refer to any situation where a landlord takes the law into his or her own hands and forces a resident from the premises without following the proper, legal eviction procedures.

There is a specific process any landlord who wants to evict a tenant must follow, and there can be serious consequences for any landlord that disregards the process and take things into their own hands.

In Florida, prohibited eviction practices committed by a landlord that qualify as illegal self-help evictions include shutting off the utilities to the residence, changing the locks or locking the tenant out in any way, removal of vital aspects of the residence like doors and roofing, or removing a tenant’s property.

If a landlord partakes into a self-help eviction, the tenant will be entitled to potentially significant damages. The tenant may be entitled to three months’ rent if that amount is greater than the damages. The landlord will also be responsible for the tenant’s attorney’s fees.

Additionally, any self-help eviction tactic also qualifies as irreparable harm for the purpose of injunctive relief against the eviction, and the aforementioned damages that the tenant is automatically entitled to do not prevent him or her from pursuing other potential legal remedies.

In short, there are no circumstances in which a landlord has the right to execute a self-help eviction and remove a tenant unlawfully on his or her own accord. If you are a tenant whose rights have been violated through the perpetration of a self-help eviction, please contact the Laurent Law Office today and let us fight to ensure you receive the remedy that you are entitled to. If you are a landlord and you need to have a tenant evicted, call us for assistance in following the proper procedures and ensuring that you are in full compliance with Florida tenant law.

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Written by LaurentLawOffice

LaurentLawOffice

Laurent Law Offices, P.L. is committed to helping renters and landlords alike to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution to any dispute. Attorney Hegel Laurent has been a tenant for the vast majority of his life and he understands the intricacies of Landlord-Tenant law codified in Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes. He received his J.D. from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Law School and he is passionate about representing both those who rent property or those who own rental property.

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