How well do you know Landlord/Tenant laws in Florida?

The state of Florida has summarized the laws regarding Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Laws in Florida.  Many of our clients have questions about  important information myflorida.com has put together.  It is very helpful to remind yourself what your rights are on both sides of the law.  There is a link at the bottom of the article to Florida’s website with much more information. Take a look:

Owner, Renter Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

Before You Rent
If possible, arrange for a walk-through of the premises to identify any problems that should be fixed BEFORE signing a rental agreement. Take pictures or video or make notes of any questionable conditions and include provisions for repairs in the rental agreement or in a separate written document signed by both parties.
A tenant is an equal party with the landlord. You never have to agree to any rental arrangement. Before you sign, make sure you thoroughly understand the terms of the agreement. If you DON’T understand, DON’T sign the agreement. There is no grace period allowed for canceling a rental agreement, so if you sign, you are bound to its terms.
A landlord has the discretion to collect various deposits, as well as some rent in advance. You should be careful about paying in advance unless you have decided to move into the unit. A tenant who pays in advance but then decides not to occupy the unit MAY NOT be entitled to a refund. It should be stated in the rental agreement if money paid in advance is nonrefundable.

Oral and Written Rental Agreements
A rental agreement is an agreement to rent property (commonly referred to as a lease). Rental agreements may be either written or oral. Most rental agreements are written because oral agreements can be subject to misunderstandings and are difficult to prove if there’s a dispute. A written rental agreement can be a formal contract or simply a copy of a letter stating the rights and obligations of both the landlord and tenant. Florida law requires that notices to and from a landlord must be in writing and must be either hand-delivered or mailed, even if the rental agreement is oral. You should always retain a copy of any correspondence to and from your landlord.

Deposit and Rent Requirements
A damage deposit is the most common requirement of landlords. Before signing a rental agreement, examine the premises and make note of any damaged items (e.g., broken fixtures) and, if possible, take a picture and include a date stamp. Give a copy to the landlord and keep a copy for your files. This may help eliminate or minimize disputes later.

On vacating the premises for termination of the lease:
If the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit, they must return your deposit within 15 days or,
Within 30 days, the landlord must give you written notice of how much of the deposit will be kept and why. This must be done by certified mail, to the tenant’s last known mailing address. If this notice is not sent as required within the 30-day period, the landlord forfeits their right to impose a claim on the deposit.
After receiving the landlord’s notice of intention to impose a claim, you will have 15 days to object in writing. If no written objection is received, the landlord may then deduct the amount of their claim and shall remit the balance of the deposit to you within 30 days after the date of the notice of intention to impose a claim for damages.
If you object to the landlord’s claim, you may file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) or institute an action in court to adjudicate the landlord’s right to the security deposit.

Responsibilities
The responsibilities of the landlord and tenant may vary based on your rental or lease agreement and the type of rental unit.

The Landlord
The landlord’s responsibilities will depend on the type of rental unit.

Single-Family Home or Duplex
At all times during the tenancy, the landlord of a single-family home or duplex shall:
Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing and health codes; or
Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes, maintain the plumbing in reasonably good working condition and maintain the roof, windows, screens, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads.
The landlord’s obligations may be altered or modified in writing when renting a single-family dwelling or duplex.

Apartment
At all times during the tenancy, the landlord of a dwelling other than a single-family home or duplex (e.g., an apartment) shall:
Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing and health codes; or
Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes, maintain the plumbing in reasonably good working condition and maintain the roof, windows, screens, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads.
The landlord will also make reasonable provisions for:
Extermination of rats, mice, ants, wood-destroying organisms and bed bugs,

Locks and keys,
Clean and safe conditions of common areas,
Garbage disposal facilities and outside receptacles, and
Functioning facilities for running water, hot water and heat during winter.
This does not mean that the landlord is obligated to pay for utilities, water, fuel or garbage removal, although they may choose to do so.

The Tenant
At all times during the tenancy, a tenant shall:
Comply with all building, housing and health codes and keep the dwelling clean and sanitary;
Remove garbage from the dwelling in a clean and sanitary manner;
Keep plumbing fixtures clean and in good repair;
Not destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or property belonging to the landlord, nor permit any person to do so;
Conduct themselves and require their guests to conduct themselves in a manner that does not unreasonably disturb the tenant’s neighbors or constitute a breach of the peace; and
Use and operate in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators.
Access to the Premises
The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the rental unit from time to time to inspect the premises.
The landlord may enter the rental unit at any time for the protection or preservation of the premises.
The landlord may enter the rental unit on reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time to make repairs to the premises. “Reasonable notice” is defined as 12 hours prior to entry, and “reasonable time” is defined as between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The landlord may also enter under any of the following circumstances:
With the consent of the tenant;
When the tenant unreasonably withholds consent;
In case of an emergency; or
When the tenant is absent from the premises for a period of time equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. If the rent is current and the tenant notifies the landlord of an intended absence, then the landlord may enter only with the consent of the tenant or for the protection or preservation of the premises.
The landlord shall not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.

Failure to Meet Obligations
If the Landlord Does Not Comply
A tenant must notify the landlord, in writing, by hand delivery or mail, of noncompliance with Florida law or the requirements of the rental agreement. The written notice shall also indicate the tenant’s intention to terminate the rental agreement due to this noncompliance. The tenant may terminate the rental agreement if the landlord fails to come into compliance within seven days after delivery of the written notice.

If the Tenant Does Not Comply
A landlord must notify a tenant in writing of any perceived noncompliance except for the failure to pay rent.
If the issue can be corrected, the tenant will have seven days in which make the correction. If the tenant still has not complied after seven days, the landlord can begin the eviction process based on noncompliance.
If the issue is one in which the tenant should not be given an opportunity to correct it (i.e., destruction, damage, intentional misuse or continued unreasonable disturbance), the tenant will have seven days to surrender the premises.
Each eviction case is unique, so be sure to obtain legal advice. A landlord MAY NOT evict you solely in retaliation for the tenant complaining to a governmental agency about code violations or asserting other tenant rights.

Nonpayment of Rent
The landlord must serve the tenant a written notice allowing three days, excluding weekends and legal holidays, for the payment of the rent or vacating of the premises. If the tenant does not pay the rent or vacate, the landlord may begin legal action to evict.
For the landlord to gain payment of rent or possession of the dwelling, they must file suit in county court. The clerk of the county court will then send the tenant notification by summons. The tenant must meet the requirements outlined in the summons within the time frame cited. Failure to meet these requirements may result in a judgment being entered against you. The clerk of the county court will then issue a “Writ of Possession” to the sheriff, who will notify you that eviction will take place in 24 hours.

If the Landlord Does Not Comply
The tenant MAY be able to withhold rent if the landlord fails to do what the law or rental agreement requires. A tenant must notify the landlord, in writing, by hand delivery or mail, of the noncompliance. The written notice shall also indicate the tenant’s intention to withhold rent due to this noncompliance. The tenant may withhold rent if the landlord fails to come into compliance within seven days after delivery of the written notice.
Please note, if these events transpire, the landlord can present the tenant with a three-day notice for payment of rent.
Upon breach or early termination of the rental agreement by the tenant, the landlord’s potential remedies may include:
Terminating the rental agreement, retaking possession of the rental unit, and terminating any further liability of the tenant.
Retaking possession of the dwelling unit, holding the tenant liable for the difference between the rent stipulated to be paid under the rental agreement and what the landlord is able to recover from reletting the rental unit.
Stand by and do nothing, holding the lessee liable for the rent as it comes due.
Florida Law does not allow a landlord to force a tenant out by:
Shutting off the utilities or interrupting service, even if that service is under the control of the landlord or the landlord makes the payment;
Changing the locks or using a device that denies the tenant access;
Removing the outside doors, locks, roof, walls or windows (except for purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement); and/or
Removing the tenant’s personal property from the dwelling unless the action is taken after the surrender, abandonment, or recovery of possession of the rental unit due to the death of the last remaining tenant or after lawful eviction.
If any of these occur, the tenant may sue for actual and consequential damages or three months’ rent, whichever is greater, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

When You Decide to Move
Under certain circumstances, if allowed by the provisions of the rental agreement, a rental agreement may be ended when either party gives written notice to the other of their intention. The amount of notice required is determined by the rental agreement or, if this is not specified in the rental agreement, by the periods for which the rent is payable.
For example, if the rent is due weekly, seven days’ notice is required. For monthly rental payments, 15 days’ notice is required. Send all correspondence relating to your intentions to the landlord by mail or deliver it by hand and insist on a receipt. It is usually a good idea to speak with the landlord in person too.
When you move from a rental unit, regardless of the duration, be sure to settle all accounts. Terminate utility service the day you leave, notify the landlord, post office and others of your address change, and leave the premises in a clean condition. If it can be arranged, it is always best to take a last walk-through with the landlord and document any damages.

Military Service
Florida law provides that a military service member may terminate their rental agreement under certain conditions.

Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Laws

About Toni Hedstrom

Toni Hedstrom is founder of GoToni.com and partner of Hedstrom & Stamm Home Solutions LLC.