You have a problem tenant who refuses to pay rent or follow the lease, and now it's time to evict. Before starting the eviction process, there is an important issue to consider: Who has the right to file an eviction in Florida? Under the law, the following parties may bring an eviction action against a tenant:

(1) Property Owner: The property owner may appear pro se (“for oneself”) and file an eviction case. However, if the owner is a corporation or other fictitious entity, it must be represented by legal counsel. This requirement applies to single-member LLCs as well. Additionally, if the owner uses a nonlawyer document-preparation service, the service may only type information provided by the owner, using forms approved by the Supreme Court of Florida. A nonlawyer may not make changes to the forms or give any legal advice.

(2) Landlord: If the landlord is not the deeded owner, but is named as the lessor in the lease, the landlord may sue for eviction in its own name. Section 83.43(3) of the Florida Statutes defines “landlord” as the owner or lessor of a dwelling unit. Just like the owner, however, the landlord must hire a lawyer if it's a business entity and not a natural person.

(3) Property Manager: A property manager may only file an uncontested residential eviction for non-payment of rent, using forms approved by the Supreme Court of Florida. The manager must have written authorization from the landlord, and cannot file suit in its own name or seek a money judgment. Once the eviction becomes contested – meaning a hearing is required – the manager cannot take any further actions. Only an attorney is authorized to handle contested evictions on behalf of a landlord.

(4) Attorney: An attorney licensed to practice law in Florida may file any eviction case, whether for unpaid rent or other lease violations. Aside from property managers in uncontested cases, nonlawyers cannot represent landlords in court. Rule 10-2.1(c) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar defines “nonlawyer” as including members of bars from other states. Thus, out-of-state or foreign lawyers must seek permission to appear pro hac vice (“for this turn”) in a Florida eviction.

(5) Condo Association: A condominium association may only evict a tenant in certain situations. Namely, if the unit owner owes dues to the association, it may demand that the tenant pay rent directly to the association. The tenant is then immune from any claim by the landlord for rent paid to the association. Under Section 718.116(11)(d), Florida Statutes, the association may sue for eviction if the tenant fails to make a required payment.

The myriad rules governing evictions can be complicated at times. Even a simple concept, such as standing to file suit, requires forethought and planning. The key to a smooth eviction is understanding the law before commencing the case. For that reason, you should seek the advice of an eviction attorney if you have any questions.