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In the state of Florida, can a landlord simply change the locks on a tenant for being late on paying rent?

As the nation continues to recover from the recent economic downturn, millions of renters still struggle to make ends meet.  If you’re a distressed renter in the state of Florida, you may be asking what your rights are as a tenant and what happens next.  This quick overview of Florida’s eviction laws will outline your options and prepare you for what’s ahead. Florida law dictates that your landlord must give you notice to vacate the premises before carrying out an eviction.  Landlords may present tenants with any one of four types of notices—a three day notice, a seven day notice (with cure), a seven day notice (without cure) or a fifteen day notice; each is specific to the reason the landlord is seeking eviction. The Three Day Notice is most common and applies to tenants that have fallen behind on their rent.  Once rent becomes past due, the landlord delivers by hand (or posts on your door) a written notice to vacate the premises within three business days.  Once the three day period is elapsed, the landlord can then file a formal complaint with the County Clerk’s Office to have you evicted.  Under no circumstances is a landlord allowed, without express consent of the court or without a Sheriff present, to change the locks or remove your property from the premises; doing so is illegal under Florida statute and may annul your rental agreement entirely. If your landlord has changed your locks, you are within your full legal rights to file suit against him and seek damages.  If the courts find your landlord is in violation of any one eviction rule, your landlord can be fined for up to three months’ rent and rule in your favor; that is, the court will award you three months’ rent and allow you to stay in your home.  If you’re facing eviction from your rental home, consult with an attorney in order to ensure that you’re being treated fairly and that your rights as a tenant are protected. Stephen K. Hachey, a Florida real estate attorney, can help you navigate this process and make the most of a difficult situation. Contact him at 866-200-4646. This post was written by Stephen Hachey. Follow Stephen on Google, Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin.