Sooner or later, it happens to almost everyone – a house guest overstays their welcome, and now it's time for them to leave. Maybe you offered your home to a friend or relative during tough times, but they stayed longer than expected. Or perhaps your adult child refuses to leave the nest. What can you do to get them out?

Chapter 82 of the Florida Statutes provides a helpful process for removing an unwanted guest from your home. Essentially, if you ask a house guest to leave and they do not comply, you may file an “unlawful detainer” action against them. This is similar to an eviction, but only applies to occupants who are not legal tenants. If a landlord/tenant relationship exists, then you must proceed with eviction under Part II of Chapter 83.

The unlawful detainer process involves the following steps:

(1) Contact Law Enforcement: Present a sworn affidavit to a law enforcement officer, in accordance with Section 82.035(3), Florida Statutes. The affidavit must establish that your guest is a “transient occupant,” meaning his or her stay was for a brief length of time and not pursuant to a lease. The officer may trespass warn the occupant, and arrest upon the failure to vacate.

(2) File Unlawful Detainer Paperwork: If your guest does not qualify as a transient or law enforcement refuses to assist, commence the unlawful detainer case by filing a summons and complaint with the clerk of the court.

(3) Serve Unlawful Detainer Paperwork: Serve the summons and complaint to the guest through a process server or sheriff's deputy. The clerk of the court should also complete a certificate of mailing the paperwork to the guest's home and business address, if known.

(4) Five Days to Respond: Once served, your guest has five business days (not including the day of service, weekends, or legal holidays) to respond to the complaint.

(5) Clerk's Default: If your guest does not respond within the time permitted, file a motion for entry of a clerk's default against the guest.

(6) Final Judgment: The court reviews the case file and grants a final judgment of possession if everything is in order.

(7) Writ of Possession: The clerk of the court issues a writ of possession, which a sheriff's deputy then serves to the guest or posts at the property.

(8) Recover Possession: After 24 hours from serving the writ of possession, a sheriff's deputy recovers possession of your home and formally concludes the unlawful detainer process.

Whether you are a homeowner or tenant, you may utilize this process to remove any unwelcome guests. Most unlawful detainers conclude within a few weeks, or even sooner if law enforcement removes the occupant in step (1). Unfortunately, not all law enforcement agencies have procedures to enforce this statute. So, officers will often consider it a “civil matter” and decline to help. If this happens, you simply need to file an unlawful detainer case with the court.

Sometimes, when facing imminent removal, a savvy guest will falsely claim to be a permanent resident or tenant as a delay tactic. In response, you should request both possession and money damages based on the rental value of the property. The court may also award you the costs of your case. If, for whatever reason, the court finds that your house guest is actually a tenant, the court must allow you to amend your complaint to pursue eviction instead.

An increasing number of property owners and tenants are inviting guests into their homes, and having difficulty getting them to leave. Chapter 82 is a useful tool in these situations, but not without its challenges. If you need help removing an unwanted guest, ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or even squatter, you should retain an attorney to handle the legal process.