Brunelli Law

Evicted or Squatting: What’s Your Next Move?

Legal steps to swiftly evict squatters or unwelcome guests in Florida, ensuring a quick, lawful reclaim of your property.
@admin 10 January 2024

Why Can’t I Just Lock Them Out?

Imagine coming home to find that a guest, who was only supposed to stay for a week, has decided they’re not leaving. Your first instinct might be to change the locks while they’re out grocery shopping. However, in Florida, the law, specifically under Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes, firmly says, “No, you can’t do that.” It’s a common misconception that locking someone out is the simplest solution to reclaim your space. But legality trumps convenience, and the consequences of such actions can escalate quickly, landing you in more trouble than you bargained for.

What Are My Legal Options Then?

What do you do when hosting an unwelcome long-term guest? The answer isn’t straightforward, but it isn’t a dead end either. The first step is understanding whether a landlord-tenant relationship exists. Did they pay rent? Was there an agreement on the duration of their stay? If the answer is no, you’re likely looking at an Unlawful Detainer action, governed by Chapter 82, Florida Statutes. This is a legal route to regain exclusive possession of your home without the formal eviction process typical of landlord-tenant disputes.

How Quickly Can I Reclaim My Space?

Speed is of the essence, and you’re probably wondering how long it will take to get your property back. Florida law offers a summary procedure for Unlawful Detainer actions under §82.035, aiming for a quicker resolution than standard legal battles. This means the occupant has a mere 5 days to respond once served, according to §51.011. It’s a fast track to reclaiming your space, but only if you navigate it with precision and legal know-how.

But Really, Can I Lock Them Out?

Despite your frustrations and desire for immediate action, the answer remains a firm no. The repercussions of taking matters into your own hands can be severe, extending far beyond a simple legal slap on the wrist. It’s not just about following the law; it’s about protecting yourself from further complications and ensuring that when you do reclaim your space, it’s done right and for good.

What’s the Deal with Service of Process?

Serving your unwelcome guest with notice is a critical step, but it’s not as simple as sliding a letter under their door. Florida statutes, specifically §82.05, have specific requirements for service of process in Unlawful Detainer actions, including posting and mailing if direct service isn’t possible. This ensures the occupant is properly informed and the legal proceedings are valid. Skipping or mishandling this step can derail your efforts before they truly begin.

What If They Just Won’t Leave?

In cases where the occupant is knowingly and willfully squatting, the court doesn’t take kindly to such blatant disregard for property rights. Under §82.03(2), you could be awarded damages equal to double the property’s reasonable rental value, on top of any other damages for the waste of your property. It’s a legal acknowledgment of the inconvenience and potential harm caused by these unwelcome occupants.

So, What’s Your Next Move?

Dealing with an unwelcome guest or squatter is undeniably stressful, but you’re not without options. The key is understanding the legal landscape and navigating it with care. Whether it’s identifying the right legal action or guiding you through the Unlawful Detainer process, we’re here to ensure you reclaim your space legally and efficiently.

Ready to Take Back Your Space?

If you’re dealing with a tenant who won’t leave or a squatter taking advantage of your property, don’t face it alone. Contact us today to book an appointment. Our expertise in landlord-tenant evictions and property law means you’ll have the support and guidance needed to resolve your situation effectively. We’re here to help you navigate the complexities of the law and reclaim what’s rightfully yours.

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