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Florida Landlord & Tenant Law
            The following provides a brief overview of Florida Landlord & Tenant law.  There are many exceptions to every situation that may arise.  If you have a landlord & Tenant issue, it is advised to at least seek advice from a Florida attorney before more problems arise.
            In Florida, landlord & tenant law is governed by Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes.  Any time a person pays rent to live in an apartment, house, condominium, or mobile home, the landlord/tenant relationship is established.  It does not matter who, or what the rent is paid to or whether there is a written agreement. If there is a written agreement, it may limit or provide rights to the parties of the lease.  However, where a rental agreement and the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act are not in agreement, the lease will not govern the parties.  It is very important to read the lease and ensure it is fully understood. 

           A tenant is entitled to the right of private, peaceful possession of the dwelling. Once rented, the dwelling is the tenants to use in any lawfully manor, provided this manner is not prevented by the lease agreement.  The only time a landlord can enter the dwelling is when reasonable notice is given to the tenant of necessary or agreed upon repairs.  If an emergency exists (like a water leak of fire), the landlord may waive the notice requirement. 

            The dwelling that is rented must be fit to be lived in.  The dwelling must have working plumbing, hot water and heating.  The living space must be structurally sound and have reasonable security, including working and locking doors and windows.  The dwelling must also be free of pests. The landlord must also comply with local health, building and safety codes. If repairs must be made to make the dwelling fit to live in, the landlord must perform or pay for these repairs to be made. 

            If the tenant violates the rental agreement (such as failure to pay rent), the landlord must inform the tenant, in writing of the specific problem and allow the tenant time to correct the problem. If the problem is not corrected, the landlord can go to court to have the tenant removed.  When the tenant is called to court, they get the opportunity to argue their case before the judge and be represented by an attorney.  If the tenant receives a written notice for nonpayment of rent and makes a payment for less than the full value owed, the landlord may still seek to evict the tenant. 

            If there is a security deposit paid by the tenant to the landlord, this deposit must be preserved during the tenancy.  When the tenant leaves the dwelling, the landlord must return the full amount of the deposit within 15 days or must give the tenant written notice within 30 days.  The tenant can then object in writing within 15 days of receipt of the notice.  If the tenant does not provide the landlord with a new address, the tenant may lose the right to raise the objection.

            If the landlord fails to comply with and important responsibility, like providing a save and habitable home or fails to follow local housing codes, the tenant has the right to withhold rent.  To withhold rent, the tenant must give the landlord seven days’ notice of the problem, so the landlord has a chance to repair the problem.  When withholding rent, the tenant should save the money and seek court permission to use the money to make needed repairs to the residence.  If the tenant does not preserve the money or seek court direction for spending it, the tenant can be evicted for nonpayment. 

            The tenant may also terminate the rental agreement and move out if the landlord fails to comply with a major obligation of the agreement, provided the tenant first sends notice to the landlord of the problem at least seven days before the rent is due.

            If there is a written lease, there may be a clause that requires a 60-day notice if the tenant does not intend to stay after the lease ends.  If there is not a written lease, written notice must be given at least seven days before the next rental payment is due. 

When a Landlord & Tenant issue goes before a Florida court, the losing party may be held responsible to pay for the court costs and attorney fees of the wining party. 

            No eviction can occur without the landlord giving written notice of the problem and a court order to evict. The landlord cannot perform acts like changing the locks to lock the tenant out or turning off the utilities.  This action is known as “self-help eviction” and will result in the landlord being liable for three months’ rent or actual damages, whichever is higher. 

            Once the tenant is served with court papers seeking eviction, it is important for the tenant to immediately seek an attorney as they may have a legal defense.  There is very little time to respond to an eviction proceeding, so quick action is important. 

            If you believe you need legal advice, give William Brightwell a call at 850-332-0003