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Landlord accused of theft after tenant's possessions trashed

As a tenant, the eviction process is an upsetting and confusing time. You may be unsure of your legal rights and what the landlord can or cannot do during the process. The landlord may want to claim possession of any items left behind, but can they actually do that? What if the eviction was not carried out correctly? Let's take a closer look at the law.

"Self-help" eviction leads to accusations of theft

A landlord in southern Florida is accused of theft of up to $10,000 after she ordered a cleaning crew to remove items from a tenant's rental unit after an eviction. However, the eviction is being called into question after the landlord left a handwritten note, and then didn't evict the tenant until more than a month after the notice.

This type of eviction, sometimes called a "self-help" eviction, occurs when a landlord does not follow the legal steps to removing a tenant from the property. Instead, they may change the locks or remove items without warning. However, this isn't how the process should occur.

A lease guarantees certain rights to tenants too

When you sign a lease with your landlord, you are signing a legal contract that allows both parties certain rights under the law. Although it can feel like you're giving up a lot of rights when you agree to the terms as a tenant, you are still entitled to certain protections.

What steps does a landlord have to follow before an eviction?

1. Provide you with written notice

The landlord should offer a written notice of their intention to evict you. This notice should include certain legal language such as the reason for the eviction and the date in which you must vacate the property. Depending on the circumstances, this notice could come a few days or a few weeks before the scheduled eviction.

2. Offer a legal remedy to the situation

Although an eviction notice can be frightening, there may be a way to address the situation such as paying the balance on late rent or fixing a repair. However, this may not be an option in every case. If you receive an eviction notice without prior warning of a lease violation, you should contact your landlord, and then seek legal help if you cannot reach an agreement.

3. Find a way to get your stuff back

If you are ultimately evicted, you should work with your landlord to regain any possessions left behind. A landlord may try to claim your possessions as collateral for unpaid rent or other damages, but they may not be legally allowed to do this under certain circumstances. This arrangement can be made in court with the help of an attorney.

Eviction requires a landlord to follow certain legal steps. Therefore, even when you are faced with the removal from a rental property, you still have rights under the law.

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