Landlord Tenant

THE LANDLORD’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Florida Statutes, §83.51, requires a landlord to comply with certain responsibilities mandated by statute and case law. This means that the roof must not leak; the walls must be weather-tight, and in good repair; the stairs, if any must be safe for normal use and maintained in good repair; 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; window panels cannot have cracks and holes; outside windows must have screens; inside floors, walls, ceilings must be basically rodent-proof and kept in sound condition and good repair, and should be safe; the house or apartment must have hot water, which is connected to the kitchen and bathroom sinks, tub or shower; all houses or apartments must have a flush toilet in good working condition; when cooking and heating equipment are provided by the landlord, they must be safely installed and in good working order; there must be adequate garbage disposal facilities or garbage storage containers; 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 and all electrical systems must be in good repair and good working order.

IF THE LANDLORD FAILS TO COMPLY WITH HIS OBLIGATIONS

If the landlord fails to do what the law or lease requires and the premises are uninhabitable, you may be able to withhold the rent. The tenant must give notice of his intention to withhold rent 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 the tenant withholds the rent the landlord may take the tenant to court to collect the rent. The tenant must them pay the rent into the court registry pending the judge’s determination of the case. Always speak with an attorney before withholding rent.

THE TENANT’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Florida Statutes, Section 83.51, requires a tenant to comply with the mandates of the Statute and case law. This means that the tenant must keep the house or apartment in a clean and sanitary manner; remove all garbage from the house or apartment in a clean and sanitary manner (for example, use garbage cans); keep all plumbing fixtures in the house or apartment used by the tenant in a clean and sanitary manner and in good repair; 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, not destroy, damage or in any way misuse the property itself. This includes not permitting any of the tenant’s guests to do so either; 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); conduct themselves and require anyone who visits them to act in a way that does not disturb the peace.

EVICTION

The eviction notice is the landlord’s request or formal demand made to the tenant. It asks the tenant to pay the rent or move out. The landlord must serve you, the tenant, a written notice allowing three days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) for the tenant to pay the rent or move. If the tenant does not pay the rent or moves, the landlord may begin an action to evict the tenant. The notice is delivered to the tenant only, and it is not filed in court. If the tenant does not voluntarily move as requested by the eviction notice, the landlord may file an eviction action in court. The eviction action is the landlord’s request or formal demand made to the County 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. If the tenant does not respond, the clerk of the county court will issue a default, and then the judge will enter an eviction judgment and a writ of possession which is subsequently submitted to the sheriff who will notify you that you will be evicted in 24 hours.

If the Landlord wishes to evict the tenant for something other than the failure to pay rent, then the landlord must notify the tenant, in writing, of the problem which is likely a breach of the lease agreement or violation Florida Statute Chapter 83 and give the tenant seven days to correct the situation. If the tenant has not complied after seven days, the landlord can begin the eviction process against the tenant.

LANDLORDS CAN’T JUST THROW YOU OUT!

Only a judge can order a tenant to be evicted, and only the Sheriff can put the tenant out of his/her home. Florida law does not allow a landlord to force a tenant out by: Shutting off the utilities or interrupting service, even if the service is in the landlord’s name; 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); 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.