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Operating as a landlord in Gainesville post-COVID

OPINION

BY JIM KONISH

I recently took part in a Zoom hearing before a local County Judge regarding  eviction of a tenant. There are important details regarding evictions that all landlords should understand:

  1. STATE MORATORIUM ON EVICTIONS: This expired Oct. 1, 2020, and has not been reinstated.
  2. FEDERAL CDC AFFIDAVIT: This apparently will be extended through January, 2021, according to some reports. However, it is limited to actions based on non-payment of rent. A tenant who holds over after the lawful termination of the lease is not protected. Neither is a tenant who fails to timely correct a material breach of the lease that is properly noticed. 

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When terminating a lease, a landlord should refuse any payments made after commencing an appurtenant eviction process, starting with any notices to the tenant. To do otherwise could be viewed as an extension to the otherwise-terminated lease. A month-to-month lease, which can be terminated at will, is a powerful countermeasure against the CDC affidavit. 

Florida law is very favorable to landlords. However, judges will punish landlords who do not meticulously follow applicable court procedures or who poison their own case with ignorance about landlord/tenant law. The lease document is of paramount importance because it binds all parties. 

Any legal action for immediate possession should be filed as a claim separate from any claim for pecuniary damages. Judges have no discretion to grant less than immediate possession. Any claim for money damages can then be pursued if deemed worthwhile.  

You first obtain a Judgment for Immediate Possession. Then the Clerk summarily issues a Writ of Possession, which the Sheriff will promptly enforce.

I found this process to be timely and certain – if you do it correctly. The tenant vacated immediately after a stern warning from our local, quite competent judge, without resorting to the sheriff, which costs about $100. 

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