We hear it time and again – stories on the news about individuals taking advantage of the high number of foreclosed and/or vacant properties in South Florida and homes “for rent.” Time and again I share stories and information with my fellow South Floridians based on personal experiences (good and bad) that might, in some way offer help to others. In this case, let my experience be a learning experience for all of you.
Recently I had the “pleasure” of stepping a foot into the world of the SOUTH FLORIDA EVICTION PROCESS. Unfortunately, such cases are happening all too often, so educate yourself before delving into the property rental market.
What an ordeal, as I was forced to take legal steps to remove a man and his family from my property. He decided to stop paying rent and refused to pay a several hundred dollar utility bill. For as many news stories as I covered over the years detailing this situation, I had no true idea of just how complicated it could be.
Before renting property, conducting financial and criminal backgrounds are vital, but landlords — take it one step further. Do your own on-line, personal and business investigating. My tenant checked out on paper; presenting himself as an upstanding businessman in the community as the owner of several SUBWAY franchises in the area. However, had a conducted a more extensive “digging-around” on my own, I would have discovered items which would have raised red flags.
You see, there are many ways an individual can escape having a record of perhaps failing to pay rent or being kickedout, without a formal eviction showing up on file. Unsuspecting landlords have no true picture of the individual. In this case, the tenant agreed to give up my property, pay outstanding utility bills and settle just hours before a final eviction was to be filed in court. Hence, the next landlord would have no idea what this tenant is possibly capable of.
Also, double-check that your tenants have transferred all utilities into their name and address; DO NOT TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT! Many tenants know they will not be held liable for the charges should they decide not to pay and the utility company will come after you for payment, regardless of providing a signed lease agreement. Request what is known as double-billing so you receive monthly statements verifying accounts are current.
Bottom line – read everything about Florida’s landlord/tenant laws so you stay one step ahead of those seeking to take advantage. There’s a good chance those looking to cheat the system HAVE read everything about the laws and they know what loopholes exist for them to slide through. Most important – have an excellent realtor and real estate attorney on stand-by!