An old friend of yours recently lost their home and needs a place to stay. Feeling sympathetic, you generously invite them to stay with you at home or property rent free or with a small/de minimis contribution towards monthly expenses.  Everything goes smoothly for a couple weeks or months, but you eventually realize they’ve become a problem guest or simply worn out their welcome.  For example, they’ve begun leaving the house a mess, running up your utility bills, arguing with you, and disturbing your neighbors. Alternatively, maybe you’re no longer significant others/lovers, and having your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend live with you is awkward.   You’ve asked them to leave, and they’ve made little or no effort to find their own place.  Finally, you demand that they leave, but they refuse.   What now?

Although this scenario may sound unusual, it is more common than you think and does not only involve guests or friends. Seniors sometimes find themselves in these situations when they invite or allow an adult child who has fallen on hard times into their home or property.

Typically, the police are unwilling to intervene once a guest has been living at your home or property for an extended period and established signs of residency–such as having all his possessions in the home or having his mail delivered to your address. The police will advise you it’s a “civil matter” and you’re going to have to file a civil lawsuit. 

What kind of lawsuit do you file? 

If your guest has been staying at your home or property and there is no lease/rental agreement, and have not been paying rent or only paying a small/de minimis amount, then an Eviction Action is not the proper form of lawsuit. Evictions are to remove tenants, and a guest is not a tenant as long as they have not paid rent or any other regular amounts for the right to stay in your home.

Assuming your guest has been staying for free, some people may advise you that an ejectment is the proper lawsuit. However, ejectment is ordinarily used to resolve disputes over title to property, and clearly, your guest has no claim of title. Not to mention, ejectments can take months to resolve. There is a better and quicker way to address your problem.

Florida Statute Chapter 82, provides for an action called, “unlawful detainer.” [See link attached for pdf copy of 2019 version of Florida Statute Chapter 82]  A person is unlawfully detaining property if they were invited in by a legal possessor but refused to leave once the invitation was withdrawn. Although unlawful detainer is not the same as eviction, it is governed by the same special rules of procedure and moves through the courts quickly on an expedited basis.

To win the unlawful detainer, you will have to prove the following:

  • that you had the legal right to occupy the property;
  • that you invited the guest in;
  • that you later asked the guest to leave; and
  • that the guest refused to do so.

It is important to remember that if a guest has regularly made payments to you–such as rent or sharing the electric bill–they may be able to legally establish a tenancy and defeat your unlawful detainer, forcing you to re-file your lawsuit as an eviction.

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