The relationships between landlords and tenants can involve a host of complex issues. It’s a contractual relationship, usually formalized with a written rental agreement or “lease.”
Like all relationships, sometimes things go sour.
Jacobs Keeley Trial Lawyers have extensive experience in resolving commercial and residential landlord-tenant disputes in Miami and throughout South Florida.
These have included:
- Failure to pay rent
- Damage to property
- Violations of lease provisions
- Premises liability
- Eviction proceedings
- Holdover tenants
- Abandoned property
- Security deposit disputes
A well-crafted lease with clear terms can often make resolving disagreements easier and faster. There are many situations in which an attorney can help guide you to an efficient and cost-effective solution. Sometimes, litigation may not be necessary. A few strongly-worded notices from your lawyer can be a powerful motivator.Landlord-Tenant Law Overview
The vast majority of landlord-tenant disputes are going to be resolved at the state level, and the application of landlord-tenant law often varies based on the type of tenant, either commercial or residential.
Residential tenants are those who occupy the premises as a home. Commercial tenants possess the property for purposes of carrying out some form of commercial, retail or industrial pursuit. In many cases, residential tenants are often afforded more privacy protections, more habitability rights and more protections against wrongful deposits. Commercial tenants, meanwhile, are often granted greater protections against activities or failures that would impede operations or harm business interest, though they lack many of the privacy rights residential tenants enjoy.
In Florida, F.S. Chapter 83 covers all landlord-tenant law, with Part I addressing non-residential tenancies, Part II addressing residential tenancies and Part III addressing self-service storage space. In addition, some cities and counties pass local ordinances that create stricter health and safety standards, nuisance laws and anti-discrimination statutes.
Commercial leases in particular are often extensive and complex, and should be carefully drafted and reviewed with the aid of attorneys for both tenants and landlords.
With regard to residential leases, Florida adheres to the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (URLTA) that is followed by 20 other states. The goal of URLTA is to encourage landlords to maintain and improve the quality of housing, while also clarifying the obligations and rights of both tenants and landlords.
Because these disputes are so highly-regulated, it can be difficult for either side to have a clear understanding of their rights, obligations and potential liabilities.Landlord Obligations
Under URLTA, landlords are generally required to:
- Comply with all applicable housing and building codes that affect health and safety.
- Make all repairs and do what is necessary to keep the premises fit and habitable.
- Keep common areas in a clean and safe condition.
- Maintain electrical, sanitary, heating, air-conditioning, ventilating, plumbing and other facilities in good and safe working order and condition.
- Provide appropriate receptacles for removal of waste and arrange for removal.
- Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times.
- Supply reasonable amounts of heat during colder months.
In some cases, the rental agreement may include provisions for renter to perform certain maintenance and repairs. Additional provisions are indicated in Florida law, such as the extermination of pests.
If the landlord fails to comply, tenants may be able to withhold rent, so long as the intention is sent by certified mail at least a week in advance. The tenant will still have to pay the rent, but it will be diverted pending a judge’s determination on the case.Tenant Obligations
The law requires that tenants:
- Pay rent on time
- Comply with health and housing codes
- Keep the dwelling clean
- Remove garbage from the residence
- Refrain from damaging, defacing or destroying the residence
- Do not disturb the peace
- Do not abuse the systems furnished by the landlord
With the exception of failure to pay rent, landlords must notify a resident of any shortcoming and provide one week to correct a problem. If the problem is not correct, the eviction process may begin. In cases of non-payment of rent, the landlord can give written notice allowing for three days to pay rent or vacate the property. Once notified of an eviction, the tenant has five days to respond. If no response is given, the landlord will be granted default judgment.
A landlord is not allowed to force a tenant out by shutting off utilities, denying access to a property by changing the locks, removing personal property from the residence (unless it’s through a lawful eviction) or removing outside doors, locks, roof, walls or windows. If a landlord does this, a tenant can file a lawsuit for actual and consequential damages, or the amount of three months’ rent – whichever is greater – plus attorney’s fees.Recent Changes in Florida Landlord-Tenant Law
In July 2013, several amendments were made to Florida’s residential landlord-tenant statute that made the eviction process faster, but also added new protections for tenants regarding one-sided leases and security deposit refunds.
One of the updates allows landlord to evict after a seven-day notice to correct a problem, with no additional notice required. Previously, the landlord was required to send a second seven-day notice in order to lawfully terminate the lease.
The landlord can also now move to evict even after receiving partial payments from a tenant, so long as those payments are placed in the court registry and tenants are given proper notification. Also, if a lease requires tenants to give 60 days’ notice to vacate, tenants must also be granted the same amount of notice that the lease won’t be renewed.
Finally, if the landlord is going to keep the security deposit, per the provisions of the lease, the tenant must be notified within 30 days of the move. Otherwise, the entire amount must be refunded.
Contact the Miami Landlord-Tenant Attorneys at Jacobs Keeley Trial Lawyers for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.
Call us at (305) 358-7991.