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Where landlord did not effect personal service on tenants and obtained service only by publication, court did not have jurisdiction to enter money judgment against tenants

Landlord filed a two count complaint for eviction and damages on July 31, 2013. The five day summons was served by posting and the twenty day summons was returned un-served.   Landlord moved for a default on the possession count based on the posted five day summons and the court granted a default judgment for possession on August 30, 2013.

After entry of final judgment for eviction and issuance of a Writ of Possession, landlord filed an amended complaint on November 8, 2013, and did not seek leave of court for such amendment. Landlord filed an affidavit of diligent search and attempted service of process by publication in the Heritage Florida Jewish News. Such notice was published on October 18 & 25, 2013.   Based only on service by publication, landlord moved for and obtained a money judgment against tenants in the amount of $84,790.87 on January 3, 2014.

On May 7, 2014 tenants moved to vacate the money judgment based on lack of jurisdiction. The Court agreed, ruling that service by publication only provides the Court with in rem or quasi in rem jurisdiction and does not allow entry of a personal money judgment. Drury v National Auto Lenders, Inc., 83 So. 3d 951, 952 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. Weekly D637a]; Bedford Computer Corp. v. Graphic Press, Inc., 484 So. 2d 1225, 1227 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986). A personal money judgment requires personal jurisdiction over the defendant, which the court did not have. Id.

The court vacated the money judgment on September 19, 2014, but granted landlord leave to amend his complaint. On November 10, 2014 landlord issued an alias summons. We will see what happens next !

CHARLES v. MYRLAND et al., Defendants. Circuit Court, 9th Judicial Circuit Court in and for Orange County. Case No. 2013-CA-009975-O, Division 39. September 19, 2014. Honorable John Marshall Kest, Judge. Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2202CHAR