COURT REQUIRED WHEN NO MONEY IN THE COURT REGISTRY
In order for a resident to have his or her day in court, the resident must place the rent money that is owed into the Court Registry, right? You would think so, because it is the law. Unfortunately, many judges do not follow the law and set eviction trials when no money at all is deposited in the Court Registry or fail to require accruing rent to be deposited into the court registry. The result? More time wasted and more money lost. How does this happen?
Law regarding Court Registry Deposits
Florida Statutes clearly state that if a resident is contesting an eviction, the resident must place the rent money as alleged in the eviction complaint and money as it becomes due during the time period from when the case is filed into the Court Registry until a final hearing, or file a Motion to Determine Rent, which will often allow the resident to get into court without placing any money into the Court Registry. This article will only deal with the resident filing an answer with the court, not the Motion to Determine rent, which is dealt with in the article entitled Motion to Stay Writ . If the resident claims that he or she has PAID the rent to you in full, or has paid you rent after you after you served the Three Day Notice, most judges will set the case for a hearing. Payment of rent is a complete defense to an eviction, and a judge will not take any chances or require the resident put up more money into the court registry other than money which may become due as the case progresses into the next month. While it is not too common that a resident will outright lie and say they have paid the rent, this resident delay tactic will be dealt with in a future article.
Florida Statutes section 83.60 Defenses to action for rent or possession (2) In an action by the manager for possession of a dwelling unit, if the resident interposes any defense other than payment, the resident shall pay into the registry of the court the accrued rent as alleged in the complaint or as determined by the court and the rent which accrues during the pendency of the proceeding, when due. The clerk shall notify the resident of such requirement in the summons. Failure of the resident to pay the rent into the registry of the court or to file a motion to determine the amount of rent to be paid into the registry within 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after the date of service of process constitutes an absolute waiver of the resident's defenses other than payment, and the manager is entitled to an immediate default judgment for removal of the resident with a writ of possession to issue without further notice or hearing thereon…
Purpose of the Law
The purpose behind the law is to protect the manager from a potential greater loss of rent by the resident filing an answer to the complaint, delaying the action while the rent owed continues to build up. It also is meant to cut down on unnecessary court hearings in which the resident has no real defenses to the law. Basically the law says to the resident, “PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS or you will not be entitled to a hearing.” There is no surprise here to the resident, as this requirement is clearly stated in the eviction summons as required by the law. A number of years ago, this statute only stated that the manager was entitled to a “default” if the resident failed to place the rent money into the court registry. This gave an easy “out” for judges, and many would enter a default but still set the case for a hearing or eviction trial, allowing for a further delay and loss of rent to the manager. The statute was modified and now states that the manager is entitled to an “immediate default judgment”, which made it clear that if the money was not in the Court Registry, a final judgment of eviction would be entered against the resident and a writ of possession could issue.
Suppose the Resident Files an Answer and Places the Rent into the Court Registry?
1. ALL RENT DEPOSITED - Under current law, if the resident places ALL the rent into the court registry as it is alleged due in the complaint that your attorney files, the resident has an absolute right to be heard in court, at which time the resident can bring forth any and all defenses to the eviction action. This is assuming that no more rent has accumulated during the eviction action, i.e., we have not gone into another month and more rent is owed.
2. PARTIAL RENT DEPOSITED - If the resident only places a partial amount into the court registry, not the full amount, some judges will set the case for a hearing. For instance, the complaint when filed states that $600.00 is owed, but the resident only places half this much into the Court Registry. The law states that the judge should enter a default judgment against the resident. Unfortunately the partial rent deposit can trigger a court hearing even though it DOES NOT comply with the law.
3. ALL RENT DEPOSITED BUT NOW MORE RENT IS OWED - An eviction is commonly filed some time in the middle or towards the end of the month. Often the resident will place the amount of money owed as alleged in the complaint into the Court Registry, but NOW another month is owed. Under the law, the judge should enter a default judgment against the resident, but often this does not happen, and again a hearing is set.
The Law Versus Reality
As you can see, the law says one thing, but in reality often another thing occurs. How can this happen? Some judges are not aware of the law. This can occur when a judge is new and has just been put on the bench, or another judge who does not handle evictions may be sitting in for a judge on vacation or home ill. Other judges simply are more lenient to the resident and have taken a stance that they will do what they will. A judge new to the bench is often lenient in the beginning, then as times goes on, they realize why the law was written and how the failure to follow the law results in unnecessary hearings, a burden on the court and a greater loss of rent to the manager.
Your Attorney’s Role
When a resident files an answer with the court and has not complied with the law requiring the deposit of the rent money into the Court Registry, your attorney will file a Motion for Default for Failure to Post Rent Into the Court Registry. Our firm files detailed motions in these cases, and we never fail to remind the judge what the law is in the matter. If the eviction rolls into another month and the accrued rent is not deposited as required by law, we file another Motion for Default for Failure to Post Rent Into the Court Registry to again show the judge what the law is, in hopes that he or she will sign the judgment. Will the judge sign the default judgment after receiving the motion? Yes, in most cases. In the other cases, the judge will require a hearing, and unfortunately you will end up in court. Your attorney will often know the particular judge’s stance in these cases and may be able to advise you whether there will be a high chance of a hearing, or whether the judge will most likely sign the judgment.
The Manager’s Role
There is not much the manager can do when the judge requires a hearing, but there are some things that increase the risk of the judge setting a hearing when a resident files an answer. A Three Day Notice with odd amounts will often raise the suspicion of a judge that something may be improper on the Three Day Notice. Strange amounts can be due to late charges, acceptance of partial payments in the past, a running balance, accumulated late charges, excessive rent owed or many other reasons. If the Three Day Notice clearly states how you arrived at the amount you are demanding, this makes a judge more comfortable in entering a default if no money has been placed in the Court Registry. Many managers who file their own evictions do not know that only rent or amounts defined as rent in the lease can be placed on a Three Day Notice. Judges see improper Three Day Notices all day long. Take your time, prepare your Three Day Notice with care, and always ask your attorney what can or cannot be put on the Three Day Notice.
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW