FLORIDA'S LANDLORD/TENANT RIGHTS

FLORIDA'S LANDLORD/TENANT LAW

Most people living in leased apartments and other rental housing know there are laws dealing with landlord/tenant relationships; but they often don't find out the details until there is a problem.

The following landlord/tenant information is provided to answer many of the questions frequently asked regarding landlord/tenant rental relationships, according to Florida's Landlord/Tenant Law (Chapter 83, Part II).


BEFORE YOU RENT


* When searching for a rental dwelling, be careful when leaving a deposit to hold an apartment for a short period of time, in order to shop around for other
possible dwellings. If the property manager says the deposit will be returned
whether you decide to rent the apartment or not, always get that verbal promise in writing.

* Make sure you have reviewed your rights and obligations as a tenant, and the
rights and obligations of the landlord, according to Florida's Landlord/Tenant
Law (Statute 83, Part II).

* Although Florida law does not require a written lease, you should request a
written lease that clearly states all the terms. Oral leases are subject to misunder-standings and are more difficult to enforce.

* If there is no written lease, the span of your rental payment (weekly, monthly, etc.) determines the length of the agreement.

* Before signing a rental agreement make sure you understand the terms of the
contract. If you don't understand, don't sign the lease!!! There is NO required
grace period for canceling leases, so if you sign, you are bound to the agreement.

* Before signing a rental agreement always conduct a preliminary walk-through in the actual premises you intend to rent, so as to identify any problems that should be fixed before you rent. Verbal promises made by the landlord to fix the
identified problems, should be included or attached as a written agreement to the lease, and signed by the landlord.

* A damage deposit (security deposit) is one of the most common requirements of landlords. At time of your pre-rental walk-through with the landlord, you should make note of damaged items or areas, worn rugs, broken fixtures, etc., and give a copy to the landlord. Keep a copy for your files. This may eliminate or minimize disputes later.


THE LANDLORD'S RESPONSIBILITIES


* Florida Statutes, Section 83.51, require a landlord to comply with the local
Property Maintenance Code. This means:

1. The roof must not leak.
2. The walls must be weather-tight, and in good repair.
3. The stairs must be safe for normal use and maintained in good repair.
4. Windows and doors must be basically weather-tight, water-tight, rodent-proof, and kept in sound working condition. Outside doors have to have proper
locks.
5. Window panes cannot have cracks and holes. Outside windows must have
screens.
6. Inside floors, walls, ceilings must be basically rodent-proof and kept in sound
condition and good repair, and should be safe.
7. The house or apartment must have hot water, which is connected to the
kitchen and bathroom sinks, tub or shower.
8. All houses or apartments must have a flush toilet in good working condition.
9. When cooking and heating equipment are provided by the landlord, they must
be safely installed and in good working order.
10. There must be adequate garbage disposal facilities or garbage storage
containers.
11. Every habitable room must have at least two separate floor or wall electric
outlets and, additionally, every kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and hallway
must have a ceiling or wall-type fixture, or an outlet controlled by a wall
switch near the entrance to the room.
12. All electrical systems must be in good repair and good working order.


IF THE LANDLORD DOES NOT COMPLY


* If your landlord has failed to comply with the previous listed code responsibilities, and has ignored your request to undo their unlawful action, you can contact The Code Enforcement Branch of city or county in which you reside and request that they contact your landlord and explain that their action is illegal and violates your local code.

* If your landlord fails to do what the law or lease requires, you may be able to
withhold the rent. You must give notice of your intention by certified mail at
least seven days before the rent is due to allow time for the landlord to remedy
the problem. If the problem is not corrected within seven days and you withhold
the rent the landlord may take you to court to collect it. You must them pay the
rent into the court registry pending the judges determination of the case.

* Always call the Consumer Affairs Division in your city or county regarding your landlord/tenant rights before withholding rent!!!


RENT WITHHOLDING FROM LANDLORD

* You must be very careful to do what the law requires for a proper rent
withholding!!! ALWAYS call the Consumer Affairs Division of your county
or city regarding your landlord/tenant rights before withholding your rent.

* If your landlord will not fix a condition which is in "material non-compliance"
with the your local city or county property maintenance code, you may stop paying rent (rent withholding). Material non-compliance means that there are major problems in your house or apartment which your landlord refuses to fix.

* Under Florida law, you cannot do the repairs yourself and then deduct that cost from your rent.

* You can do a rent withholding so that you are protected by the law by taking the following steps:

1. Make a written complaint to your local city or county enforcement office.

2. Make a list of all the things which are wrong with your rental unit and violate
the local code (for example, plumbing not working, roof leaks, etc.).

3. Write the landlord this letter:

Date

Dear (name of landlord):

Pursuant with Florida Statutes, Section 83.60, I am notifying you of your
material non-compliance with Florida Statutes, Section 83.51(1), and the
(insert the name of your local code).

Unless the listed repairs are made within 7 days of delivery of this notice,
I will not pay rent, because of your failure to maintain the premises.

List all things that are wrong

Sign you name ___________________
Print your name and address.

4. Mail or deliver this letter to your landlord at least seven days before the
next rent is due. *It is recommended that this letter be sent certified mail,
return receipt requested. This is an extra protection for you in the event
the landlord denies he ever knew about the material non-compliance.
KEEP A COPY OF THE LETTER.

5. You must save the rent as it becomes due. Do not spend it, because, if the
landlord fixes the house or apartment, you must pay him at least a portion
of the rent, and, if he tries to evict you, you must deposit all of the money
you have saved with the court until the eviction case is over.


THE TENANT'S RESPONSIBILITIES


* Florida Statutes, Section 83.51, require a tenant to comply with the local
Property Maintenance Code. This means that the tenant must:

1. Keep the house or apartment in a clean and sanitary manner.
2. Remove all garbage from the house or apartment in a clean and sanitary
manner (for example, use garbage cans).
3. Keep all plumbing fixtures in the house or apartment used by the tenant
in a clean and sanitary manner and in good repair.
4. Properly use and operate all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating,
ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances,
including elevators, which are in the apartment or house.
5. Not destroy, damage or in any way misuse the property itself. This
includes not permitting any tenant's guests to do so either.
6. Not remove anything from the house or apartment which does not
belong to the tenant (for example, cannot remove light fixture which
was in the property when tenant moved in).
7. Conduct themselves and require anyone who visits them to act in a
way that does not disturb the peace.


TENANTS FAILURE TO MEET LEASE OBLIGATIONS


* Except for the failure to pay rent, a landlord must notify you, in writing, of the
shortcoming and give you seven days to correct the situation. If you still have not complied after seven days, the landlord can begin the eviction process.


EVICTION


* The eviction notice is the landlord's request or formal demand made to the
tenant. It asks the tenant to move out. It is delivered to the tenant only, and
is not filed in court.

* If the tenant does not voluntarily move as requested by the eviction notice, the landlord may file an eviction case in court. The eviction case is the landlord's
request or formal demand made to the County Court. It asks the Court to evict
the tenant.

* The request is made in a Summons and Complaint, which is delivered to the
tenant by a process server.

* The tenant has five business days to file a written answer to the Summons and Complaint or he/she will be evicted.


TENANTS FAILURE TO PAY RENT


* The landlord must serve you, the tenant, a written notice allowing three days
(excluding weekends and legal holidays) for you to pay the rent or move. If
you do not pay rent or move, the landlord may begin action to evict you.

* In order for the landlord to gain payment of the rent or possession of the dwelling, he must file suit in county court, and provide the court with a copy of the three day notice.

* If the court agrees with the landlord, it will notify you in writing. You then have five days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) to respond, also in writing, to the court.

* If you don't respond or a judgment is entered against you, the clerk of the
county court will issue a "writ of possession" to the sheriff who will notify you
that you will be evicted in 24 hours.

* You have the right to stay in your apartment until the landlord files an eviction
case and a judge decides your case. The landlord must deliver an eviction notice
before he can file an eviction case. The landlord cannot put you out unless he
wins the eviction case in court.


OTHER TYPES OF EVICTIONS


* Under certain circumstances, if the tenant has exhibited a lack of consideration for the rights and privacy of others, a landlord has the right to require a tenant to move with very little notice.

* In some cases (destruction, damage, misuse of property, unreasonable
disturbances), the landlord does not have to give you the opportunity to cure the problem and may terminate your tenancy by giving you a seven-day written
notice.


LANDLORDS CAN'T JUST THROW YOU OUT!


* Only a judge can order you evicted, and only the Sheriff can put you out of your home! (See "EVICTION" feature)

* Florida law does not allow a landlord to force a tenant out by:

1. Shutting off the utilities or interrupting service, even if the service is in the
landlord's name.
2. Changing the locks or using a device that denies the tenant access.
3. Removing the outside doors, locks, roof, walls or windows (except for
purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement).
4. Removing the tenant's personal property from the dwelling unit unless
action is taken after surrender, abandonment or a lawful eviction.

* A landlord may not evict a tenant solely in retaliation for the tenant
complaining to a governmental agency about a code violation, joining or
establishing a tenant's "union" or similar organization, or asserting other
tenant rights.

* If any of these occur, the tenant may sue for actual and consequential damages or three month's rent, whichever is greater, plus court costs and attorney's fees.


WHEN YOU DECIDE TO MOVE


* When you decide to move from the rental dwelling don't forget to give the
required notice! Be sure to check your lease agreement for the specific time
period that is required for appropriate notification to terminate the lease.

* If a specific time period is not included in your lease agreement, the table below indicates an appropriate notification time period to provide written notice:


Payment Schedule
Days of written notice required
(before contract termination)

Weekly 7 days
Monthly 15 days
Quarterly 30 days
Yearly 60 days

* Send all correspondence relating to your intention to move to the landlord by
certified mail (return receipt requested) or deliver it by hand and insist on
a receipt.

* It is a good idea to talk with the landlord in person, if you must cancel a lease
before its expiration date, perhaps the landlord will accept your security
deposit as your total financial obligation. If so, be sure to obtain a signed
agreement to this effect from the landlord.

* One of your most important responsibilities as a tenant is to leave the premises
in clean condition for the next occupant.

* Take a last walk-through with the landlord before you vacate the premises, and
note any damages in writing and reach a final agreement concerning any
financial penalties that may occur.


YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT


* As previously mentioned, always take a last walk-through with the landlord
before you vacate the rental dwelling! Note any damages in writing and
reach a final agreement concerning any financial penalties which may occur,
or that may jeopardize the status of your security deposit return.

* When you move out, your landlord must either return your deposit (plus
interest, if applicable) within 15 days of termination of the lease, or justify in
writing, within the 15 day period, why he is keeping a portion or all of the money.
The justification must be sent by certified mail to your last known mail address.

* If the notice is not sent as required within the 15-day period, the landlord
forfeits his right to impose a claim unless you failed to give proper notice prior to
vacating.

* If the tenant objects to the landlord retaining all or a portion of the deposit the
matter may be taken to Small Claims Court.


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