Kirk McFee got his wife and two young children off of Marco Island, after a mandatory evacuation order was issued ahead of Hurricane Irma. He returned this week to find an unwelcoming handwritten note taped to his front door.
"It said, 'Notice: the locks have been changed,'" McFee said.
He said he had missed his rent payment on September 1. While he was out of state, he said his landlady Cindy Love texted him that she was terminating his lease for nonpayment of rent.
"I texted her, I said 'I have the money to pay.'" McFee said. "The only reason I didn't pay before was because I wanted to make I had enough money (to evacuate.) I didn't even know if there was going to be a house there."
"Florida landlord/tenant law is very clear: landlords can not lock someone out of their unit," said attorney Louis Erickson, who is not involved in the case. He said that an evacuation should not be considered abandoning the property.
"You can't do any of that without a court order," Erickson said. "It doesn't matter how long someone has not paid."
Chuck Thomas, an attorney for Cindy Love, said he sent McFee at least two eviction notices based on delinquent rent before September.
"I'm guessing, but I'm pretty close, about $1,900 behind in the rent," Thomas said by phone. "So I gave him notice we were terminating his lease, and he could come and get his stuff out."
"I never got an eviction notice until September 8," McFee said. "I was only late a week."
McFee added that he offered to pay Love the rent due for September, but said she ignored the offer.
Thomas insisted that the eviction had nothing to do with McFee's decision to evacuate for the hurricane.