Help, I Just Got a 3-Day Notice!
Authored By: Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
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What is a 3-day notice? +
You can be evicted if you do not pay your rent. But your landlord must first get a court order and must follow all the steps under the law before you can be evicted. The first step the landlord must take is to give you a 3-day notice.
The 3-day notice must:
- Be in writing.
- Tell you that you did not pay rent when it was due.
- Tell you the exact amount of rent due.
- Give you 3 days to pay the rent or vacate (move). The 3 days does not include weekends, holidays when the court clerk’s office is closed, or the day the notice was delivered to you.
- Include the name, address, and telephone number of the landlord.
- Can only demand payment of rent. Charges for late fees, security deposits and repairs are usually not allowed unless your written lease agreement says they can be considered rent.
It is not necessary to have the sheriff deliver the notice to you. The law allows the landlord to hand-deliver the notice, tape it to your door (called posting), or mail it to you. If the notice is mailed, the landlord must add 5 days to the deadline to pay rent or move. The landlord must also add the 5 days if the notice tells you to pay the rent to a post office box or out-of-town address.
Can the notice contain other charges? +
The notice can only demand payment of rent, not other charges. A charge is considered rent under the law if your written lease says that the charge is considered to be rent or additional rent. If you do not have a written lease, or if your lease does not include a charge as rent, your landlord cannot include that charge in the amount demanded in the 3 -day notice.
Does the landlord have to accept the rent? Can I pay less than the full amount? +
Your landlord must take the rent if you offer to pay the entire amount demanded within the 3-day deadline. Your landlord does not have to take less than the entire amount and does not have to accept any money you offer to pay after the 3- day deadline has passed.
Make sure that you have proof of any payments that you make to your landlord. You can buy a money order with the date already printed on it to show that you tried to make the payment within the 3-day period. If you pay with a check from your checking account, you can get a copy of your canceled check from your bank once your landlord cashes or deposits it. It is always a good idea to take a friend with you when you are trying to pay the rent. This person could testify about what happened even if your landlord refuses to accept your full payment of rent. Always ask for a receipt for any money that you do pay to your landlord. You should not be evicted after your landlord accepts a payment from you until after you have been given another notice.
I didn't pay rent within the 3-day deadline. What happens next? +
If you do not pay the rent money that you owe or move within the 3-day deadline, the next step for the landlord is to file a lawsuit for eviction at the courthouse. If your landlord files for eviction, you will receive a copy of the papers that begin the lawsuit asking the court to order your eviction (the “summons” and complaint”). The summons and complaint must be served to you. This is usually done by having a Sheriff’s Deputy hand-deliver a copy of the lawsuit papers to you. If you cannot be found for service, your landlord can have you served by having a copy of the lawsuit taped to your door and a copy mailed to you by the Clerk’s Office (called service by “posting”).
Once you are served, you will have 5 days to file a response at the clerk’s office (called an “answer.”) The 5 days does not include weekends, holidays when the courthouse is closed, or the day you are served with the summons and complaint. The 5-day period in which you must respond begins running from the time the notice is properly posted on your door. See Filing Your Answer to a Complaint, for more information about answers.
Once you have been served with the summons and complaint your landlord will not accept rent. You must pay the rent you owe (and continue to pay it as it becomes due), to the Clerk’s Office within the 5 days or the Judge can evict you without a court hearing. If you do not agree with the amount the landlord says you owe, you must ask the judge in writing to decide how much money you have to pay to the Clerk’s Office. This is called a “Motion to Determine Rent” and must be filed with the Clerk’s Office within the 5-day deadline. If you have already paid all the rent claimed by your landlord, you should attach your receipts to your response to the lawsuit.
If you do not deposit the rent money with the Clerk’s Office or file the Motion to Determine Rent within the 5 days, the judge can evict you without a hearing. If this happens, you can be served with a Writ of Possession, and you will have to move within 24 hours.
If I'm forced to move within 24 hours, what about my belongings? +
If you are forced to move within 24 hours and cannot move all your personal belongings, you should rent a storage unit or at least move your belongings from the landlord’s property, even to the other side of the sidewalk. If you do not, your landlord can do the following:
- Put your belongings at the property line;
- Keep your belongings as payment for the rent money you owe (called a landlord’s lien); or
- Store your belongings and make you pay the storage fees to get them back.
You may be able to get some of your property back if your landlord decides to keep it. You can file for an exemption from the landlord’s lien in the eviction case. You are allowed to get up to $1,000 worth of your property back, but you will have to go in front of a judge to do so.
Can my utilities be turned off? What are some things that a landlord cannot do? +
It is illegal for your landlord to try to evict you without filing a lawsuit. Florida law says that a landlord cannot try to force a tenant to move by:
- Turning off the utilities;
- Changing or removing the locks or doors;
- Removing a tenant’s personal property; or
- Otherwise restricting access to the home to try to get the tenant to move out, even if the tenant has not paid rent.
Such actions are called “prohibited practices.” A tenant whose landlord attempts to illegally evict through a prohibited practice can sue the landlord for their actual damages or 3 months’ rent, whichever is greater. If your landlord does any of these things, you should contact the police.
Does this information apply to mobile home land rental? +
This information applies only to rental of a house, apartment, or mobile home AND lot. If you own your mobile home and only rent the lot, different laws apply.
For more information on mobile homes please see the articles on FloridaLawHelp found under the heading “Mobile Home Ownership.”
Does the Department of Children and Families provide money to prevent eviction? +
Not any more. There used to be a program through DCF called the Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program (EFAHP) which provided money to families with minor children to provent eviction. Unfortunately, this program has been discontinued and the DCF does not acccept applications for help with overdue rent, mortgage payments or security deposits.
NOTE: the printable brochure still contains information about the EFAHP, but it is no longer current.