Sunday, June 9, 2013

Do I have to pay rent into the court registry in Florida?

Imagine that a neighbor accuses you of a civil wrongdoing. He claims you destroyed his prized garden gnome, an original worth around $14k. Only you are innocent, and you have an alibi: you were clocked in and working at the time the gnome was claimed to have been destroyed. Still outraged, he scurries off to the local court and files suit against you. Papers are served detailing the facts as your neighbor sees it: Neighbor v. Gnome Killer. You laugh because your manager agreed to come and testify as to your alibi AND bring the software printouts proving you were at work.

But you look down and see instructions from the court: "In order to bring up any defense you must pay into the court registry the amount in dispute. Failing to do so will entitle the Plaintiff to a default ruling." Huh? You have to pay $14k just to have a judge hear you out. Sounds ridiculous? I agree.

However, in several states, including Florida this is a reality for certain defendants. If your landlord wants to evict you for non-payment, you must pay into the court registry an amount of the uncontested rent or the landlord is entitled to a default against you. Even if the landlord violated your rights (such as proper notice) some courts set that violation aside and refuse to hear the defendant unless you cough up the cash.

The reasoning I imagine is that once the landlord proves his or her case they are entitled to payment immediately without having to hunt you down. But this is not a good enough reason. Plenty of lawsuits progress without defendants having to pay to be heard by the judge. Arguably this is a violation of your Constitutional rights. If you are being asked to defend such an eviction, contact this law office, we will be pleased to go over your specific case.


Jimmy Davis is a practicing attorney in the Central Florida area. He practices in many areas of law, but is most interested in family and business law. He is particularly interested in the aftermath of Constitutional and Florida Constitutional rulings and how they help or hinder his clients' interests. He is available for free consultations on a variety of legal topics. 

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