Landlord-Tenant Matters

If you are involved in a landlord/tenant dispute, you should contact an attorney. Under Florida law both the landlord and the tenant have rights and duties, and it is very important to know what these are.  There are many deadlines, and time limitations that can affect your rights, so consulting an attorney will help you understand your rights and duties as well as your options for resolving the case.

Our attorneys pride themselves in their personal dedication and the professional relationship formed with each client, and have many years of experience in landlord – tenant matters in Florida in both residential and commercial settings. Our attorneys have the necessary experience, knowledge, and skill in this area of Florida law, where a mistake by a landlord can lead to expensive delays or a civil suit for damages, or a mistake by a tenant can lead to them being suddenly evicted out on the street.

Protecting the Rights of Landlords

Residential landlords in Florida to legally evict a person from a property that is being leased must follow the procedure as outlined in the Florida statutes.  A landlord may not use “self help”.  A landlord can not change the locks, use threats or retaliation, remove a tenants belongings, or turn off the utilities as this is illegal, and can lead to the tenant filing a lawsuit against the landlord for civil damages.

The Eviction Process

The 3-Day Notice

If the eviction is due to the failure of the tenant to pay rent, a 3-day eviction notice must be used. This is the first step of the eviction process and a proper written notice must be served on the tenant. Many landlords choose to prepare their own notice not realizing that a minor flaw to the 3 day notice can cause for it to be deemed defective and delay the eviction process, or have the entire eviction dismissed in court, and in some cases making the landlord responsible for the other party (the tenant) court costs and attorneys fess.

The 7-Day Notice

If the tenant materially fails to comply with Florida Statute 83.52 or material provisions of the rental agreement, other than a failure to pay rent, or reasonable rules or regulations, the landlord may serve on the tenant a 7-day Notice.

If such noncompliance is of a nature that the tenant should not be given an opportunity to cure it or if the noncompliance constitutes a subsequent or continuing noncompliance within 12 months of a written warning by the landlord of a similar violation, then the landlord can give the tenant a 7-day notice terminating the rental agreement, and the tenant shall have 7 days from the date of the delivery of the notice to vacate the premises.

If the eviction is due to noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement, but there is a cure permissible or possible, then a 7 Day eviction notice must be given, specifying the noncompliance, including a notice that, if the noncompliance is not corrected within 7 days from the date the written notice is delivered, the landlord shall terminate the rental agreement, and the tenant must vacate the premise upon said termination.

The 15-Day Notice

This is a notice served to tenants who are on a month-by-month lease. It has to be served 15 days prior to the rent being due.

All notices must substantially comply with a specific form, and if prepared inadequately same may not be enforceable.

The Summons and Eviction Complaint

In the event that the tenant has failed to comply with any of the above notices, the landlord needs to file an Eviction Complaint, and properly serve the tenant with a Summons. The Summons must be served by a sheriff or a registered process server. The Summons provides that the tenant has five days to submit a response in court, and pay to the court registry the amount of rent that the complaint alleges is owed. If the tenant fails to file a response within said 5 days, a Motion for a Default Judgment against the tenant is filed.  The court will then enter a Final Judgment for Possession.  A  last step may be required which is the issuance of a Writ of Possession for the Serrif to forcibly remove the tenant from the property. If the tenant files an amswer or any other motion to dismiss, and deposits the rent mones alleged to be owed in the registry of the court, our attorneys need to address such responses adequately and request a hearing before the presiding judge in the case.

Our Firm charges a Flat Fee for said Services

This flat fee includes the following:

  • Initial consultation
  • Review of lease
  • Preparation of statutory 3 day notice
  • Preparation of statutory 7 day notice
  • Preparation of statutory 17 day notice
  • Preparation of eviction complaint for possession
  • Preparation of claim on security deposit
  • consultations throughout the process
  • preparation of any additional motions and or responses
  • attendance in court if necessary

 

Protecting the Rights of Tenants

If you are a renting a property in Florida, you as a tenant have certain rights under  Florida law and the terms of your lease.  When a landlord, or property management company violates your rights, you need an attorney to properly defend you.

We provide tenants facing issues with their rental property or an eviction, with the following services:

  • Initial consultation
  • Review of lease
  • Return of security deposit
  • Landlord repair obligations
  • Landlord implied warranty of habitability issues
  • Tenant quiet enjoyment claims
  • Consultations through the process

If you rent a house, apartment, condominium or mobile home to another person, you enter into a legal contract known as a rental agreement. This rental agreement need not be in writing. If the rental agreement is in writing, it is a “lease.” This agreement has certain basic conditions specified by law, and you should understand them before you enter into the agreement. As a landlord, you have certain rights; you also have certain duties. Even in the absence of a written lease, the law imposes duties and gives rights to the parties.

If you require a prospective tenant to complete a rental application, and the applicant is a member of the United States Armed Forces on active duty or state active duty or a member of the Florida National Guard and United States Reserve Forces, you must notify the applicant of application approval or denial within seven days of when the application is submitted.

Your obvious right as a landlord is to receive rent for the use of the property.

Another important right is to have your property returned to you undamaged at the end of the agreement. It should be returned in the same condition in which it was received, except for ordinary wear and tear.

In return for these rights, it is your duty to provide a home that is safe and meets housing code requirements, and to make reasonable repairs when necessary. The obligations can be limited sometimes under the lease. It is also your duty to respect the tenant’s rights. One of the most important of these is the right of peaceful possession. By renting to the tenant, you give that tenant the possession and use of your property free from interference. That means that you may not enter the home frequently, at odd hours or without notice. Rights relating to reasonable inspection are often set forth in a written rental agreement, as well as in Florida law. You have a right to protect your property through inspection, but you must give a reasonable notice of at least 12 hours. You don’t have the right to show the property to possible buyers without notice to and agreement of the tenants.

It is unlawful to increase a tenant’s rent or decrease services to a tenant in a discriminatory manner, or threaten to bring an action for possession or other civil action primarily in retaliation against the tenant. Retaliation may be presumed if it occurs after a tenant has complained about housing conditions. It is also unlawful to lock the tenant out, intercept or shut off utilities, water or electric services to the tenant, or remove doors, appliances or the tenant’s property from the home. A landlord who does this can be ordered to pay a tenant damages in the amount of three months’ rent, or actual damages, whichever is greater.

To end the tenancy, if the unit has no written rental agreement or if the lease does not state otherwise and the unit is rented on a month-to-month basis, you must give at least 15 days’ notice in writing before the end of any monthly period; a week-to-week rental period requires seven days’ notice before the end of any weekly period. Any such notice must be in writing and should be delivered personally to the tenant, but it may be posted at the door if the tenant is absent from the premises. If the written rental agreement requires that the tenant give notice of up to 60 days before leaving the unit, the landlord is required to give the tenant the same notice period that there is no intention to renew the lease.

If the rented property is foreclosed upon, the purchaser at a foreclosure sale may terminate the rental agreement for existing tenants only by delivering a written 30-day notice of termination to the tenants. The tenants are obligated to pay rent during the 30-day period for any amount then accruing. The purchaser does not assume the duties of the landlord unless the purchaser assumes the existing rental agreement or enters into a separate rental agreement with the existing tenants. This 30-day notice requirement does not apply to all tenants. You should consult with an attorney to determine if the 30-day notice requirement is applicable.

Finally, both the landlord and the tenant have the duty to observe state and local laws concerning the use and condition of the property.

The basic rights and duties mentioned here apply whether or not the agreement between the landlord and the tenant is in writing. A written agreement is best, because it serves as a memorandum of other terms and conditions such as restrictions on the number of adults or children or types of pets to be allowed. And if you wish to provide for lease terms of one year or more, the agreement must be in writing to be enforceable.

If the tenant permanently moves out before the end of the rental term and leaves the property vacant, this usually is considered to be an abandonment of the tenant’s rights. The law presumes an abandonment if the tenant is absent for at least 15 days without previously notifying the landlord of an intent to be absent. After abandonment, you may re-enter the dwelling unit. The rights and remedies often are complex, and you should consider legal advice or assistance.

The situation is more complicated if the tenant seems to have gone away but has left personal property on the premises or if there is a considerable amount of unpaid rent. In such a case, you should consult an attorney before trying to dispose of the tenant’s possessions or re-renting the property.

Another complication occurs when a tenant fails to pay the rent or refuses to move out at the end of the rental term. Under these circumstances, you may evict the tenant, but only after you have taken the proper legal steps to commence an action for possession according to a very specific timetable. You must serve proper notice or notices on the tenant to terminate this rental agreement. If the tenant ignores these notices, you are next required to file a complaint in court and have the tenant properly served with a summons and complaint. Five business days after the complaint is served, you may request the court to set a date for a hearing. However, if the tenant fails to answer the complaint within the five business days or fails to pay the rent that is due then, you can proceed to eviction without having a hearing first, though you must get a court order before evicting the tenant.

If the tenant disputes the amount of rent that is due, the rent does not have to be deposited at the court and a hearing must be held. If you wish to collect money damages from the tenant, you must wait 20 days to set a hearing on damages. At the hearing, you can ask that the tenant be evicted. If the judge agrees that the tenant has violated the terms of the agreement, a sheriff will serve an eviction notice on the tenant. The tenant then has 24 hours to get out of your property, or the sheriff can return to remove the tenant and supervise the removal of the tenant’s belongings. Because these proceedings are so technical, it is wise to have them handled by an attorney. Even if you decide to file the claim yourself in county court, you should have an attorney review the notices you have given and the ways you have served them to make sure you have properly observed all of the necessary requirements of the timetable. A single mistake can result in serious delay in your regaining possession of the property.

Because the landlord/tenant relationship is a legal contract, you should understand its various provisions before you rent your property to anyone. Remember that, as a landlord, you will be required to provide living quarters that are safe and keep them in good repair. Your obligations for repairs can sometimes be limited under the lease. You will have to turn over possession of the property to the tenant, free from unnecessary interference from you. In return, you may collect rent and, on reasonable notice or in cases of emergency, may inspect the property. At the end of the rental term, the property must be returned to you with no damage beyond ordinary wear and tear. The landlord has certain duties to account for or refund tenant deposits upon termination of the tenancy. Many of these basic conditions apply whether or not there is a written agreement.

When a person pays rent to live in a house, apartment, condominium or mobile home, the renter becomes a tenant governed by Florida law. It doesn’t matter whether payment is made weekly, monthly or at other regular periods. Also, it doesn’t matter whether the apartment, house, condominium or mobile home is rented from a private person, a corporation or most governmental units. These facts are true even when there is no written “lease” agreement.

A tenant has certain rights and responsibilities under Florida law. These are specified in the Florida Statutes at Part II, Chapter 83, the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act. A tenant in federally subsidized rental housing has rights under federal law, as well. If there is no written lease, these laws regulate the tenant’s rights. There also may be a written lease that could affect a tenant’s rights. If there is a written lease, it should be carefully reviewed. The Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act prevails over what the lease says.

A tenant is entitled to the right of private, peaceful possession of the dwelling. Once rented, the dwelling is the tenant’s to lawfully use. The landlord may enter the dwelling only in order to inspect the premises or to make necessary or agreed upon repairs, but then only if the landlord gives the tenant reasonable notice and comes at a convenient time. If an emergency exists, the requirement for notice may be shortened or waived.

The landlord is required to rent a dwelling that is fit to be lived in. It must have working plumbing, hot water and heating, be structurally sound and have reasonable security, including working and locking doors and windows, and it must be free of pests. The landlord also must comply with local health, building and safety codes. If the landlord has to make repairs to make the dwelling fit to live in, the landlord must pay.

If the landlord contends that the tenant has violated the rental agreement, the landlord must inform the tenant in writing of the specific problem and give the tenant time to correct the problem – even if the problem is nonpayment of rent – before the landlord can go to court to have the tenant removed. Tenants receiving a nonpayment-of-rent notice should be aware that a landlord may accept part of the rent owed and still evict the tenant. Tenants renting condominiums should be aware that, in certain circumstances, the condominium association may demand that the tenant pay the rent to the association instead of the landlord. Tenants should consult an attorney in this case. If the tenant commits a serious act endangering the property (such as committing a crime on the premises) or fails to correct a problem after written notice from the landlord, the landlord still must go to court to be permitted to evict the tenant. In any court proceeding, tenants have the absolute right to be present, argue their case and be represented by an attorney.

If the landlord requires the tenant to pay a security deposit, the landlord must preserve the deposit during the tenancy. In addition, the landlord must return the full amount of the deposit within 15 days after the tenant leaves the dwelling or give the tenant written notice of why some or all of it won’t be returned within 30 days after the tenant leaves the dwelling. The tenant then has the right to object in writing within 15 days of receipt of the notice. Under some circumstances, the tenant may receive the security deposit plus interest. Before moving out, the tenant must provide the landlord with an address for receipt of the security deposit, or else the tenant may lose the right to object if the landlord claims the right to keep the deposit money.

The tenant has the right, under certain very aggravated circumstances caused by the landlord’s neglect, to withhold rent. This can be done only when the landlord fails to comply with an important responsibility, such as providing a safe and habitable home in compliance with local housing codes. Before rent is withheld, the tenant must give the landlord seven days’ written notice of the problem so the landlord can fix it. Even after withholding rent, the tenant should save the money and seek court permission to spend part of it to do what the landlord should have done. If the tenant does not preserve the money and seek court assistance, the tenant may be evicted for nonpayment.

Finally, the tenant has the right to move out. If there is a written lease, the tenant should read the lease closely to see if it requires up to 60 days’ notice that the tenant does not intend to stay after the lease ends. If there is no written lease, the tenant may move out for no reason by giving written notice of the intent to leave no fewer than seven days before the next rent payment is due, if the rent is paid weekly, or 15 days, if the rent is paid monthly. The tenant may terminate the rental agreement if the landlord has failed to live up to a major obligation, provided the tenant has sent written notice to the landlord seven days before the rent is due (there are some exceptions to the right to move out).

If a landlord loses in court, the landlord may be held liable for any costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the tenant. If the tenant loses in court, the tenant may be liable for the landlord’s costs and attorney’s fees.

A tenant also has responsibilities that, if not observed, can lead to eviction. The tenant must pay the agreed-upon rent and do so on time. The tenant must comply with building, housing and health codes. The tenant must maintain the dwelling without damage, other than ordinary wear and tear, keep the dwelling clean and maintain the plumbing. The tenant must not violate the law or disturb the peace, nor allow guests to do so.

In trying to evict a tenant, a landlord will try to prove that the tenant violated a tenant responsibility. However, the landlord may not seek to evict a tenant in retaliation for legitimate complaints about housing conditions to proper authorities. No eviction can occur until the landlord first gives the tenant notice of the problem and then gets a court order. Without the court order, the landlord has no power to interfere with the tenant. The landlord cannot, for instance, lock a tenant out or cut off a tenant’s utilities. A landlord engaging in this type of prohibited practice may be liable to the tenant for damages in the amount of three months’ rent or actual damages, whichever is higher. The landlord must get a court order of eviction before interfering with the tenant’s occupancy.

If a tenant is served with papers seeking eviction, the tenant should immediately seek legal assistance. The tenant may have legal defenses. For instance, the landlord cannot try to get even with a tenant through eviction when the tenant has not violated tenant responsibilities. To raise defenses in an eviction proceeding, a tenant normally must pay into the court registry past-due rent if any is owed and rent that comes due during the proceeding. A tenant who disputes the amount of rent claimed to be due may ask the court to determine the correct amount, but the tenant must show why the amount is wrong. In an eviction proceeding, a tenant has very little time to respond, so quick action is important.

The landlord can never remove the tenant’s property or lock the tenant out. Only the sheriff’s office may do this, after a court order and writ of possession.

Please contact us for a free consultation with our dedicated and knowledgeable attorneys to help you with your legal needs. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call us today at (305) 442-1439. To reach us via email, please fill out our online contact form available under the “Contact Us” tab, and a member of our staff will contact you promptly. We look forward to serving you.

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