FEBRUARY 2010 LEGAL UPDATE

- Guide to Florida Eviction Motions
- NSF Payments - Checks Drawn on Insufficient Funds
- Stopping an Eviction
- The Demand for Insurance Information

NSF Payments - Checks Drawn on Insufficient Funds
By Michael Geo. F. Davis, Attorney at Law

The problem of checks returned on insufficient funds (NSF checks) is often compounded by the manager's subsequent actions. What starts out as a frustrating nonpayment event can become an eviction case lost with liability for the resident's attorney fees. Every NSF check forces the manager to spend additional administrative time with such tasks as reversing the payment on the resident's ledger and collecting the balance owed. It seems reasonable that the landlord should be compensated for this additional time and work in the form of appropriate service charges. Yet not all landlords are properly set up to pursue such charges.

Dealing with a NSF check will depend on whether the resident remains in possession or has vacated.

Resident vacated - collection

If the resident has vacated, then the NSF check is simply a collection issue. The landlord adjusts the resident's ledger to reflect the returned payment. The landlord can address NSF checks just as she addresses any other amounts owed. She can pursue collection on her own (send balance due letters and sue) or send the account to a collection agency. The resident is liable for the face amount of the check, any bank fees incurred by the landlord and court costs, and attorney's fees, if suit is filed. The landlord may also pursue other civil and criminal penalties, as detailed later in this article.

Resident vacated - notice of claim

If a Notice of Intent to Impose Claim on Security Deposit has been sent, and the landlord is still in possession of the security deposit, and the 30 day period after vacating has not expired, the landlord can make an additional claim against the security deposit. She sends an amended notice of claim by certified mail. If a notice of claim has been sent and it already claimed the entire security deposit, then there is no point in sending an amended notice. A balance due letter adding the NSF amount to the outstanding balance is all that's needed.

Resident in possession - 3-Day Notice

If the resident is still occupying the rental premises, the landlord can serve a 3-Day Notice if the amount still owed is rent or additional rent. In calculating the amount for the 3-Day Notice, the landlord should confirm that all amounts on the Notice, including any additional NSF service charges, are designated as rent or additional rent in the lease. The landlord should serve a 7-Day Cure Notice for any amount owed that is not rent or additional rent. If the NSF check was tendered for payment of an outstanding 3-Day Notice or 7-Day Cure Notice, then the prior Notice is still viable. A NSF payment is not a valid payment and will not count as "payment" toward the Notice.

Resident in possession - the demand letter.

A common mistake made by landlords is to send a demand letter for payment of the NSF check. Almost universally, the demand letter gives the resident so many days to pay. The landlord also serves a 3-Day Notice or a 7-Day Notice at or around the same time. If the demand letter and the Notice have different response dates or time periods, the landlord has arguably voided her Notice. Of course, the landlord's attorney doesn't discover this legal flaw until the eviction hearing, and may not be able to extricate the landlord from the strong defense competing notices can provide. If the landlord loses the eviction case, he will likely be responsible for the resident's attorney fees, if the tenant is formally represented. NEVER SEND A DEMAND LETTER FOR AN NSF CHECK. IF IT IS RENT, SERVE A 3-DAY NOTICE. IF IT ISN'T RENT, SERVE A 7-DAY CURE NOTICE.

Resident in possession - the NSF statutory notice

Many landlords are aware that Florida provides for civil penalties under a NSF civil statute. The best advice is to forego this statute and its penalties while the resident is in possession. To invoke the statute, you must send a statutory form and give the person writing the bad check (usually the tenant) 30 days to pay. While the 30-day period is running, any 3-Day Notice or 7-Day Cure Notice given may be invalidated, as the payment dates or time periods of such a Notice conflict with the statutory notice.

Criminal penalties

Florida statutes provide for criminal penalties for intentionally writing an NSF check. If a landlord is thinking of pursuing criminal penalties for NSF checks, he should first call the state attorney's office for the county, in which the rental is located. Some offices have established procedures and particular forms for their county. A review of the appropriate websites may also provide the needed information and forms. Just as with informal demand letters or statutory demand letters attempting to pursue civil remedies, the pursuit of criminal prosecution involves sending a formal demand letter to the person writing the bad check (again, usually the tenant), which demand will likely conflict with a 3-Day Notice or 7-Day Cure Notice, so we strongly recommend foregoing the criminal prosecution route while the tenant is in possession of the rental premises.

NSF service charges

If the lease provides for NSF service charges, then those charges will be applicable. Florida law frowns upon imposing penalties upon residents. Landlords are cautioned that service charges should approximate recovery of the economic loss caused by the NSF check for additional administration, loss of the use of the funds, etc. Many leases follow the NSF statutory service charges, on the premise that these charges are a legislative indication of reasonable service charges. As of January 2010 the statutory service charges are: $25 if the check is $50 or less, $30 if $51 to $300, $40 if $301 to $800 and 5% of the check amount if the check is over $800. Absent lease authorization or following cumbersome statutory procedures, the statutory service charges cannot be imposed.

Bank fees

Almost all banks impose a fee on the landlord/depositor if a check bounces. If the lease permits, than these fees are chargeable to the resident. If the lease is silent or there is no lease, the landlord may still seek reimbursement of the fees from the resident, but may have to resort to litigation to establish his right to reimbursement.

The landlord's checks bounce

What about the fees charged by the bank for the checks that the landlord wrote in reliance on the NSF check? Because the resident's check bounced, now the landlord's checks may be bouncing. It is unlikely that these bank fees are chargeable to the resident. Absent some extraordinary circumstances, the landlord is responsible for giving a deposited check sufficient time to clear before relying on it.

Keep the lease up to date

As a final point, landlords should check their leases to insure that NSF charges are assessed, and that these charges approximate current statutory service charges. Leases should provide for reimbursement of bank service charges, and should include clauses providing for recovery of any collection fees or charges, including attorney fees and court costs.

(Back to Top)

Stopping the Eviction
by Harry A. Heist, Attorney at Law

Almost every day we get a request by phone, email or fax to "stop" an eviction. We don't mind it, as it is less work for us to stop an eviction than to bring it to completion. However, we immediately ask the property manager why the eviction is being stopped. It is important that we know the answer, as often property managers improperly stop evictions for wrong reasons and find themselves in trouble later, possibly having to file another eviction needlessly. While we don't mind filing evictions multiple times on the same resident, your company might not like the fact that money is needlessly wasted on attorney's fees and costs. If the property manager does not completely understand the eviction process or is desperate to collect any money he can, he often will stop an eviction and end up paying a big price later. Do you really want to make your attorney wealthy?

Why stop an eviction?

The eviction has been filed, and the property manager subsequently receives the keys, or it appears the resident has vacated. This is a common reason. The resident may come into the office with $1000, representing the rent amount owed, and the manager accepts the rent and figures that the eviction should be stopped. This is another common reason. Sometimes the resident makes a significant partial payment and has promised to come in 5 days later and pay the rest. We hear it all the time. You call and want to stop the eviction. The eviction was filed in error, and the property manager hastily wants the eviction stopped. Whoops. It happens. In this article we are going to examine the reasons why property managers stop evictions and how the eviction should be stopped, if it all.

The resident has all of the rent

The Three Day Notice demanded $750, and since the eviction started, the resident now owes another $750, as you are into the next month. He has a cashier's check or money order for $1500 and has come into your office. Do you take it or refuse it? The first inclination, especially in these tough economic conditions, is to take the resident's rent money. Sounds good, right? But Wait! What about the attorney's fees and costs? A typical eviction attorney who does volume evictions will charge between $125 and $150 in attorney's fees for the basic eviction, PLUS you have to pay the costs, which at a bare minimum (depending upon how many residents are being evicted) will run you at least $200. Who is going to pay that money? Some property managers think the resident will pay it. Good luck. Not only do they rarely voluntarily pay, but you cannot force them to pay it. By accepting the $1500, the eviction is dead and gone, and the resident cannot be forced to pay the attorney's fees and costs. Can you deduct it from the security deposit when they vacate? Possibly, but the landlord is not really the prevailing party in the eviction lawsuit, as the eviction has been stopped before a judge made a decision, and there probably is not enough money in the security deposit to cover the attorneys fees, costs and possible damages to the premises or rent owed. The lease may state that the resident is liable for all attorney's fees and costs, but by accepting the rent and voiding the eviction, a resident can fight you on this, especially if she did not realize that you would be trying to take the money owed from the security deposit when she vacated.

The resident has a partial amount of rent owed

In some instances, the resident does not have the full rent but a good portion of the rent owed. The temptation is great, the pressure to collect rent is on, and the property manager accepts the payment. The result? Same as above. The eviction is dead and gone. Good luck collecting attorney's fees and the remaining rent balance. Hopefully the regional manager or the property owner gave the property manager authorization to "eat" the attorney's fees and costs and possibly have to incur them again in the next eviction which may have to be filed.

The resident has turned in keys

The majority of residents under eviction vacate before the process is completed. This is a good thing. Many begin looking for new accommodations the day after they are served with the eviction papers if they have not already begun looking, knowing than an eviction is imminent. The result is that the resident packs up and leaves. In some cases they turn in keys, clean the unit and surrender the premises to the landlord. This is the ideal situation. Why not stop the eviction action at this point? Our question we have is why stop it at all? Our attorney's fees cover the entire eviction from beginning to end. If the tenant vacates a day after we file the case or has to be forcibly removed, our fee stays the same. The only additional cost involved is the fee that the Sheriff's department charges, and the Sheriff is not needed in all cases, especially those where the residents have turned in their keys and fully vacated the unit. Stopping the eviction will result in the resident NOT getting a Final Judgment of Eviction on his or her permanent record. The manager needs to make a decision whether they want the tenant to just have an eviction filing on their record or whether they want the tenant to have an actual Final Judgment of Eviction on their record. Just because the resident has turned in the keys does NOT mean they have completely surrendered the unit to you. You can never be completely sure. There will come a day when you receive keys from a resident and then will be surprised to find another person living in the unit who tells you they are there with the permission of the resident who turned in the keys to you. The result is that the unit has NOT been completely surrendered and you do NOT have possession. You can see how stopping the eviction at this point will result in you not being able to remove this person.

The resident has "abandoned"

Your maintenance tech goes to the unit under eviction, and it appears that the residents have "abandoned". The electric is off, the next door neighbor said they saw them driving off in a truck in the middle of the night, and the unit is trashed. Looks abandoned, smells abandoned and probably is abandoned, BUT by law it may not be. Abandonment is defined by Florida law, and we urge you to read the ARTICLE ON ABANDONMENT before you ever assume a unit is abandoned. Our recommendation in cases where all the residents have not given you possession, but rather have seemingly abandoned, would be to continue on with the eviction if you are worried at all that the resident is going to come back, or if there is anything left in the unit. Carry the eviction to completion, get the writ of possession, and have the Sheriff execute the writ of possession. This will assure you that the eviction is completed. If the residents were to return, they are not able to retake possession, and you are not liable for any personal property which was put to the property line after the writ of possession was executed. It is the safest route.

The proper way to "stop" an eviction

The proper way to "stop" an eviction is to not really "stop" it at all. In situations when the property manager is going to accept rent, in full or part, a Stipulation should be used. The Stipulation is the document under which the property manager agrees to take a specific sum, and the resident agrees to pay the balance if any, including the attorney's fees, costs, late charges or any other amounts owed according to a written "payment plan". This "payment plan" should not be confused with any other type of payment plan or workout agreement you may enter into with your residents. A "Stipulation" is an actual court document that becomes a "court order" once the judge signs an order approving the Stipulation. This court order will authorize you to obtain a Final Judgment of Eviction if the tenant fails to comply with the terms of the Stipulation. Most judges approve Stipulations under which the resident must pay according to the Stipulation AND pay the rent on time for a period of up to 6 months. You see, the eviction is not really "stopped", but rather it is suspended or deferred by the Court. If the resident pays according to the Stipulation, the resident can stay. If the resident fails to make one or more payments on the past balance owed or the rent as it becomes due, the eviction is revived and your attorney can request a Final Judgment from the judge without having to file an eviction all over again.

Should you always use a Stipulation?

We feel that in most cases if you are going to accept a partial or even full payment from the resident, a Stipulation should be used. Obviously, in many cases the resident does not have a significant amount of money, and you should not stipulate, but rather just refuse the rent and continue on with the eviction. If a resident owes $1500 and only can offer you $100, it usually is not appropriate to enter into a Stipulation. The amount you decide to accept in order to enter into a Stipulation is up to your company policy, and this should be established and written down, if not already in place, to avoid inconsistent actions which could result in Fair Housing issues. If you are not stipulating, make sure the resident does not try to slip in a payment without your knowledge, since if this payment is accepted, the resident has essentially paid rent during the eviction, and the eviction may have to be dismissed. It is crucial that you have a system in place to prevent inadvertent acceptance of rent from a resident once an eviction is filed.

The resident pays EVERYTHING including attorney's fees and costs

You might wonder why you should not stop an eviction if the resident is paying you absolutely everything they owe. It happens. The resident comes into some money, receives a tax refund, settlement or begs, borrows and steals to be sure they can pay and stay. We once had a resident rob a bank and then pay the rent to stop his eviction. If the resident pays you EVERYTHING in full, a Stipulation is not necessary, BUT what about next month's rent? Will the resident be in the same position of nonpayment next month? If so, you may have to file another eviction on that resident and go through the entire process again. You need to make a decision whether you just will stop the eviction OR enter into a Stipulation under which the resident is ordered by the Court to pay the rent as it becomes due on time for the next 6 months. This is a judgment call on the property manager's part, and also will depend upon where your property is located. Some judges will only allow Stipulations on past balances owed, but most will allow Stipulations on future payments as well. Your attorney can tell you whether the judge will allow a future rent payment Stipulation. Our recommendation? Stipulate whenever possible, so you can avoid filing an eviction on the resident again within the next 6 months.

The eviction is proceeding, the resident wants to pay, and you are confused!

Call your attorney! Many property managers only have one or two evictions in a year, and if you are in that lucky category, you are more apt to be confused or make mistakes during your eviction. In a way, it is a good problem. Call your attorney right away if a resident want to pay and stay, or you are thinking about stopping an eviction for whatever reason. Your attorney is not hired to just file your eviction, but is there to assist you throughout the entire process. Many things can happen during the eviction process, and your attorney will know exactly how to guide you. Take advantage of the availability and willingness of your attorney to help you. It's your attorney's job.

(Back to Top)

Guide to Florida Eviction Motions
by Brian P. Wolk, Attorney at Law

Most property managers understand the eviction process in very general terms. They know that a Three Day Notice to Pay rent must be served upon the tenant prior to filing a nonpayment eviction action. Likewise, virtually all property managers understand that the final stage of the eviction process involves the sheriff executing the writ of possession. Unfortunately, many property managers do not have a real clue as to what takes place during the time in between the time an eviction starts and is completed. Why is this "in between time" so important? If your eviction attorney navigates through this process skillfully, they not only help you prevail in court, they can shorten the eviction process, so that you can place somebody in a unit who is not living rent free. It is not enough for a property manager to grasp that there is important work to be performed by your eviction attorney in the period after an eviction action is started. A property manager should also have a solid grasp as to what goes on during this "in between period".

Why, you ask? First, you will be better able manage your property, because the timing of the eviction process will not be a mystery to you. This knowledge will allow you to plan ahead and better organize and budget for your property accordingly. Your boss or owner and those you deal with at the corporate headquarters will also appreciate that you are able to explain to them in detailed terms the status of the eviction case against your tenants. They will have comfort that their property manager is on top of things, and it will please them that you have made it a priority to remove the tenants who are living "rent free". Central to understanding the "in between" period of the eviction process is learning how motions are strategically used to advance the eviction effort.

The Motion for Default

Lou missed his February rent payment. You served him a proper Three Day Notice to Pay Rent which has expired. You have now asked your attorney to file an eviction action. The eviction is filed in court on Monday, February 8th. The Clerk of the Court mails Lou a copy of the eviction complaint and summons which Lou receives on Tuesday, February 9th. The process server delivers the eviction complaint and summons to Lou on Wednesday, February 10. In the meantime, Lou has decided not to respond to the eviction complaint and has tossed his copies in to the waste basket. Florida law requires that the tenant respond to the eviction complaint within 5 business days after being served with the eviction complaint. Failure on the part of Lou to respond within the allotted time will subject Lou to a "Default", which may be entered Clerk of the Court after the submission of the Landlord's Motion for Default. The word "default" sounds like a mysterious legal term to many. It is not! A default simply means that one has failed to perform an obligation. In the context of an eviction, the tenant's obligation is to respond to the Clerk of the Court within five business days after being served with the eviction complaint. If not, the tenant will then be in default. In fact, on the eviction summons, the tenant is instructed to send the Clerk of the Court reasons why they should not be evicted.

Now what? The answer is simple. Your attorney may file a Motion for Default on February 18th (the sixth business day after service of process). With the exception of a few counties in Florida, the date the tenant is sent a mailed copy of the eviction complaint from the Clerk of the Court is irrelevant. The key date for purposes of when the Motion for Default will be ripe is the date the tenant was served with the eviction complaint and summons by the process server. In the case of Lou, the key date for timing purposes is February 10th, the date Lou was served with the eviction papers. On February 18th, five business days have passed without Lou responding to the Clerk of the Court. Now your attorney should file a Motion for Default with the following language: "Plaintiff moves for an entry of a Default by the Clerk against Defendant for failure to serve any paper on the undersigned or file any paper as required by law. I do hereby certify that no copy of the answer or other pleading of the Defendant in the above styled cause has been served upon the Plaintiff or his/her attorney, to the time of the filing of the above Motion For Default". Once the Clerk of the Court enters the Default, the Judge will then sign the Final Judgment for Eviction, which will authorize the Clerk to issue the writ of possession to the Sheriff.

Motion for Default and Default Judgment

The tenant has answered the eviction complaint. What does your eviction attorney do now? Section 83.60 (2) of the Florida Statutes answers that question. Before discussing Section 83.60 (2), our article, Motion to Determine Rent, a Tenant Delay Tactic http://evict.com/?page=articles_2#motdet is a must read. Section 83.60 (2) contains the following:"In an action by the landlord for possession of a dwelling unit, if the tenant interposes any defense other than payment, the tenant shall pay into the registry of the court the accrued rent as alleged in the complaint or as determined by the court and the rent which accrues during the pendency of the proceeding, when due. The clerk shall notify the tenant of such requirement in the summons. Failure of the tenant to pay the rent into the registry of the court or to file a motion to determine the amount of rent to be paid into the registry within 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after the date of service of process constitutes an absolute waiver of the tenant's defenses other than payment, and the landlord is entitled to an immediate default judgment for removal of the tenant with a writ of possession to issue without further notice or hearing thereon. In the event a motion to determine rent is filed, documentation in support of the allegation that the rent as alleged in the complaint is in error is required. Public housing tenants or tenants receiving rent subsidies shall be required to deposit only that portion of the full rent for which the tenant is responsible pursuant to federal, state, or local program in which they are participating".

The above statutory language requires conventional property tenants to deposit into the Court Registry the rent alleged in the eviction complaint and all rent that becomes due in the future while the lawsuit is ongoing. According to Section 83.60 (2), if the tenant files a motion to determine rent, they must attach sufficient documentation supporting the position that the rent owed as alleged in the complaint is wrong. Consider the following scenario: Arthur is served with his eviction papers on March 14th. The landlord alleges that one full month of rent has not been paid. On March 18th Arthur files his answer with the court. Arthur deposits no money into the Court Registry and briefly writes that that he will receive his tax refund check soon and requests a court hearing. Arthur responded in time to avoid a default being entered against him by the Clerk of the Court. What course of action will your attorney take in this case? After five business days have elapsed from the date of service or process, your attorney will file with the Court a Motion for Default and Default Judgment. Your attorney in that motion should request that the Judge enter the default and enter a default final judgment for eviction. The motion may read in part like the following: Plaintiff moves for entry of a default and default judgment by the Court against Defendant for failure to deposit the rent amount alleged in the complaint into the Court Registry as required by Florida Statute 83.60(2)". Likewise, in the above example, If Arthur had written that he is requesting a hearing to determine rent because he disagreed with the amount owed, but gave no reasons why he believed that to be true, then your attorney would add the following language to the above mentioned Motion for Default and Default Judgment: "Defendant has attached no documentation showing the rent amount alleged in the complaint to be in error, as required by Florida Statute 83.60(2)". It is also important to note that some judges prefer that the eviction attorney file a Motion To Strike Defendant's Answer and For Order Entering Default and Default Judgment instead of the motion for default and default judgment. Both motions have the same basic language, except that the Motion to Strike requests the Judge to "strike" the tenant's pleading because they are defective. If the above motions are granted, then the judge will sign the final judgment of eviction, authorizing the Clerk of the Court to issue the writ of possession to the Sheriff. These motions are vital, because you can often navigate through the eviction process without the need to attend mediation and/or court hearings, which saves you time and money!

Motion for Default and Default Judgment for Failure to Deposit the accrued rent into the Court Registry

Elvis, your tenant, was served with an eviction complaint on July 28th because he has not paid the July rent. The next day Elvis files an answer to the eviction complaint with the Clerk of the Courts. He points out that the Three Day Notice to Pay rent was not prepared properly, and he deposits the July rent into the Court Registry. It is now August 10th, and rent is due on the first of each month according to the lease. No additional monies have been deposited by Elvis into the Court registry. At this point a seasoned eviction attorney will file a Motion for Default for Failure to Deposit the Accrued Rent into the Court Registry. While sounding technical, this motion is easy enough to understand. Florida Statute 83.60 (2) requires the tenants who are defending their evictions to deposit not only the rent alleged in the complaint, but all future rents as it comes due while the lawsuit is pending.

Under this scenario, many judges will grant the eviction without a hearing (forcing Elvis to leave the building), since his failure to deposit accrued August rent into the Court Registry resulted in a WAIVER OF ALL DEFENSES other than payment, according to Section 83.60(2). Elvis' defective Three day notice defense is not a defense of payment, and therefore, that defense will not be available for use by Elvis. The motion may contain language like this: "Plaintiff moves for entry of a default and default judgment by the Court against Defendant for failure to deposit the accrued August-2010 rent into the Court Registry as required by Florida Statute 83.60 (2).

A motion for disbursement of the Court Registry funds is also usually filed at the same time the motion for default is filed. Unless there is some real dispute as to whether the money deposited into the Court Registry is actually owing, the disbursement order will also often be granted without a hearing. However, a judge will sometimes grant the eviction without a hearing, but withhold ruling on disbursement of the Court Registry funds until a future hearing is held, particularly if the tenant is complaining about alleged problems with the apartment or indicating other disputes.

(Back to Top)

The Demand for Insurance Information
by Harry A. Heist, Attorney at Law

You go to the post office, pick up the mail and while thumbing through it see a letter from a personal injury attorney whose name you saw on a billboard. Of course you become nervous, and it is the first letter you open. Reading it, you determine that an attorney is representing one of your residents in a slip and fall on the rental property, and the attorney is demanding insurance information. What should you do?

Sooner or later you will be faced with the situation of an attorney for your current or past resident demanding insurance information from you. This is standard procedure for the personal injury attorney, and it should not worry you. It does not matter what the attorney is alleging, if anything, in his or her demand letter. The tenant may be suing on a slip and fall, mold related claim or any possible injury she may claim has been sustained on the property you manage or managed. The key is to comply or make sure the property owner complies with the demand letter as required by Florida law.

The Law

Florida Statutes 627.4137 is called Disclosure of Certain Information Required" and sets out what the insurance company and the insured must disclose to an attorney who is representing an injured party. While you may feel this does not apply to you, the statute requires the "insured," i.e., the owner of the property you are managing, or maybe even your company, to disclose certain information. Although you most likely are not the "insured", you are the agent of the insured, and need to communicate with the owner of the property and make sure that either you or the owner complies with the law and provides the information to the lawyer. It may be as simple as making a phone call to the owner's insurance agency or faxing them the demand letter received from the attorney, and the information will begin to flow. If it does not, follow up.

The resident is a fraud!

You might be flabbergasted or angered at the allegations the resident's personal injury attorney makes in his demand letter. You may know for a fact that the resident is committing a fraud or has completely made up a story about getting injured on the property. None of this matters. What matters is that you get the information to the attorney, or at a minimum, make sure the owner of the property complies with the law.

What does the letter demand?

The letter you received from the attorney most likely quotes all or part of Florida Statute 627.4137 and demands the name of the insurer, the name of each insured, the limits of liability coverage, a statement of any policy or coverage defense and a copy of the policy. Most of this information may not be readily available to you or the property owner, but the owner's insurance company will have everything. Usually all it takes is a call to the insurance agent, and they will get the ball rolling. The information must be provided to the attorney within 30 days of receipt of the demand. Additionally, the statute requires that the insured disclose the names of all known insurers. The owner may have insurance with one company and umbrella insurance with another. All this must be disclosed. Read the letter carefully to see if the attorney is demanding insurance information from you, the owner or both.

The purpose of the insurance information demand

The insurance information demand and the law requiring the disclosure of information allows the attorney to deal directly with the insurance company if one exists. Hiding this information from an attorney or ignoring the demand will result in greater problems for the property owner, as the attorney may directly file a lawsuit against the owner, rather than dealing with and possibly settling with the insurance company.

Notification to the Insurance Company

Besides complying with the law under the statute, it is crucial that the owner's insurance company is notified whenever an attorney is indicating that he or she will make a claim. Many insurance carriers will try to refuse coverage of a claim if it is not reported to the insurance company within a certain amount of time as required under the policy. Once you receive the letter from the attorney, you are fully put on notice that there is some sort of claim, and this needs to be reported. If the claim is against you or your company, make sure you notify your insurance company immediately. If the claim is against the owner of the property you manage, take swift action to notify the owner, and most importantly, be able to prove you did.

Notification of the property owner

In these days of email communication and faxes, it is easy to fall into the trap of just scanning the letter and emailing the owner. Is the owner now on notice? We recommend you not only email the insurance information demand letter to the owner, but also send it to him by certified and regular mail following up with a phone call. The last thing you want is to be accused by an owner of not notifying him of a possible claim, having his insurance company deny the claim for failure to notify according to the policy rules, and have the property owner try to say that you were at fault. It is bad enough that many owners who receive the insurance information demand letter do not take the matter seriously, but to be accused of not notifying the owner is an avoidable problem. Questions? Call your attorney if you receive the insurance information demand letter.

(Back to Top) revs'd 2/18

Law Offices of Heist, Weisse & Wolk, P.A.
Phone: 1-800-253-8428 Fax: 1-800-367-9038

Serving Florida's Property Managers with offices in Orlando, Clearwater, and Fort Myers Beach, Principal Office


|     Home Page     |     Firm Profile     |     Attorney Profiles     |     General Services     |     Apartment Communities     |     Residential Managers     |     Apartment Communities     |     Residential Managers     |     Homeowners/Investors     |     Eviction Q & A     |     Legal News     |     Training/Events     |     Contact Us     |