When a tenant signs a lease agreement, they make the process of eviction legally sound. But how do you evict a family member or other unwanted guests if they have not signed a lease?
What Does the Law Say?
Consider this: your relatives or friends come to stay with you over the holidays. You expect that they will leave when the holidays end, but instead they decide to remain living in your home without paying rent. After asking them to leave your property, they refuse. What do you do? According to Chapter 82 of the 2017 Florida Statues, you are able to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit against your unwanted houseguests. An unlawful detainer lawsuit is very similar to an eviction, only it occurs between two people who do not have an official homeowner-tenant relationship.
Once you have officially asked a family member or other unwanted guest to leave and they refuse, that person is considered a transient occupant of your home if he or she fulfils one of the following terms:
- The person does not have an ownership interest, financial interest, or leasehold interest in the property entitling him or her to occupancy of the property.
- The person does not have any property utility subscriptions.
- The person does not receive mail at the property.
- The person pays minimal or no rent for his or her stay at the property.
- The person has an apparent permanent residence elsewhere.
Step 1: Notice to Vacate
According to chapter 82.045 (2) of the Florida Statutes, a transient occupant is considered to be unlawfully detaining a residential property if he or she remains an occupant of said property after being directed by the property owner to leave. So, a transient occupant isn’t technically breaking the law by simply being a transient occupant. Rather, he or she has to refuse to leave your property after being told to in order to be considered an unlawful transient occupant. In this regard, a verbal request to leave will not necessarily stand up well in court. Instead, you will need to send an official notice to vacate the property. Make sure that it is stamped and dated, and that you keep a copy for yourself. Remember to include a specific date before which the transient occupant must have vacated your home.
Step 2: Involve Law Enforcement
Once you have officially told your transient occupant to leave and they still refuse, you can involve law enforcement. Go to your local law enforcement agency and sign a sworn affidavit that proves a transient occupant is unlawfully detaining your property. The affidavit must outline why your family member or other guest is considered a transient occupant, and should also include a copy of your notice to vacate the property as proof. Law enforcement can then direct the transient occupant to leave your property.
Step 3: File an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit
If involving law enforcement does not work, the rightful owner of a residential property subject to a transient occupant is may file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. As mentioned, an unlawful detainer lawsuit is very similar to an eviction lawsuit. You do not have to notify the transient occupant before filing the lawsuit. The outcome of the suit will be decided in a court of law, often within a few weeks.
It is important to remember to be civil throughout the entire process. If you intend to involve the law in evicting a family member or other unwanted guest, do not break the law in the process. Don’t get physical, try to intimidate your transient occupant, or throw their belongings out into the street (no matter how frustrating they may be). Most of all, seek legal assistance or representation. Evicting a family member or guest is an unpleasant and often painful experience; you don’t have to go through with it alone.