What Is A Motion to Determine Rent And How Is It Used As A Delay Tactic?

Your tenant is behind on the rent and fees for multiple months, you finally decide to retain Makris Legal, P.A. to start the eviction process to remove the tenant from the property. The Complaint has been filed, the tenant has been served with the Complaint and the issued summons, and now we have to play the waiting game. But wait, what is that showing up on the Docket? It appears that the tenant has filed a Motion to Determine Rent. What is this exactly and what does it mean for your case?

After a 3-day notice is served on the tenant and they fail to pay the amount stated in the 3-day notice, the eviction action is commenced. After the tenant is served with the eviction action, the tenant is required to file an Answer to the Complaint, or they can file a Motion to Determine Rent. This essentially asks the Court to decide how much rent is owed, if any, and how much needs to be deposited into the Court Registry. When this motion is filed it will more than likely trigger the Court to set a hearing date.

What is required in a Motion to Determine Rent? According to Florida law and the local Florida Courts, a Tenant must file a Verified Motion to Determine Rent and provide documentation supporting the allegation that the rent alleged in the Complaint is “in error”. The Tenant is required to immediately pay into the Court Registry the amount of rent that is undisputed. Once that is done and the Court sets a hearing date and time, the Court will hear the facts from both sides, review the supporting documentation, and make a ruling on how much rent is owed into the Court Registry.

For example, the Landlord is evicting Tina the Tenant. Tina does not agree that she owes $2,000 in rent to Larry. After Tina receives the Complaint and the issued summons, Tina files a Motion to Determine Rent and alleges that she in fact has paid $1,000 and she only owes $1,000 and attaches a receipt as an exhibit to her Motion. At this point, the Court will more than likely schedule a hearing date and time and Tina is required to pay $1,000 into the Court Registry before the hearing.

However, most of the time when a tenant files a Motion to Determine Rent, they are almost always legally insufficient, but the Courts still end up scheduling a hearing date. For example, the tenant will not file supporting documentation or they will only write on the motion “I want the Court to determine how much rent I owe”. For example, Tina the Tenant filed a Motion to Determine Rent after she received the eviction action against her. In her motion, she only wrote “I do not believe I owe this much money to Larry the Landlord; I want the Court to determine how much I owe” and nothing more. No documents attached to show how much she alleged she paid or is actually owed, nothing. In this scenario, the Court should strike down the Motion for being legally insufficient. Unfortunately, many Courts will not strike the Motion and it will end up going to a hearing.

So, what ends up happening when a Tenant files a Motion to Determine Rent? Most of the time the Court will set a hearing, regardless of if the Motion is legally sufficient. When this happens it turns into a delay tactic that a tenant uses in order to kick the proverbial can down the road and remain in the property for as long as possible. With the Courts being so backed up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hearing times are hard to come by and can sometimes take over a month or two to schedule (depending on the jurisdiction and Court).

If the Tenant fails to deposit the amount stated in the Rent Order issued by the Judge in a timely manner, then the Judge will likely sign a Final Judgment against the Tenant and the eviction action will proceed to completion, without any further hearings. However, if the Tenant deposits the money into the Court Registry, then the eviction action will be scheduled on the Judge’s docket for trial. As mentioned above, due to the Courts being so backed up it could take up to a few months to get a hearing date. Do you have a tenant that you are trying to evict but they are delaying the eviction? If so, click here to reach out to an attorney to assist you in removing that tenant.