Landlord-Tenant Lawyer in South Florida
No one wants to go through an issue with a landlord or a tenant. In fact, most lease agreements try to outline the rights and duties of each party to eliminate the concerns of legal disputes down the line.
Unfortunately, issues can and do emerge that may prompt you to contact a knowledgeable lawyer.
When this happens, learning as much as possible about the issues is strongly recommended so that you feel prepared if you do have to file a suit.
Understanding your rights and responsibilities, either as a landlord or as a tenant, is crucial for anyone who finds themselves in the situation of managing a conflict with another party.
Knowing the legal ramifications as well as how relevant Florida statutes impact this relationship can be important for trying to resolve this issue or moving forward with a lawsuit.
Required Landlord Disclosures in Florida:
An experienced attorney can help a landlord understand the specific information that must be disclosed to the tenants, such as the institution in which the security deposit is located and who is allowed to act in the landlord’s stead. If the landlord fails to make a disclosure, a tenant should consider discussing this with a lawyer.
Security Deposit Limits and Returns
One of the most commonly contested issues between a landlord and a tenant is the return of the security deposit. There are no limits under Florida law about the limits for what a landlord can request for the security deposit. That being said, there are clear rules about how and when the landlord must return the security deposit.
Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in Florida
In certain situations, a tenant is legally allowed to withhold rent, if the landlord does not take care of critical repairs. If you attempt to withhold rent and your landlord tries to pursue eviction against you, it is strongly recommended that you retain a knowledgeable Florida landlord tenant lawyer.
You need to ensure that the circumstances justify you’re paying less rent and that you comply with any state legal requirement regarding the notice that you have to give your landlord. Florida state laws stipulate the limit on how much rent you may withhold, the type of notice you must give the landlord, the type of repair or habitability issues that qualify for rent withholding and any other issues such as whether or not you must need to pay rent into an Escrow account.
If a landlord fails to maintain or ignores problems such as a broken heater or a leaking roof, a tenant has legal rights, such as the opportunity to withhold rent until those necessary repairs are made. It is strongly recommended that before withholding rent, you contact a knowledgeable Florida landlord tenant attorney to discuss your options. The way in which you approach the withholding of rent can keep the relationship between you and your landlord professional without escalating it to the point of a legal dispute. Many tenants are well within their rights to withhold rent, when a landlord is not taking care of critical maintenance issues, but you must understand the right way to approach this issue.
Florida Rent Rules
Another commonly contested issue for landlords and tenants in Florida has to do with eviction issues and overdue rent. State law regulates these issues clearly, including that a tenant has up to three days to pay the late rent or vacate the property before a landlord can initiate the eviction process.
Eviction Rules and Termination in Florida
A landlord can terminate a tenancy in several different situations, for example, if a Florida tenant has caused intentional destruction to the property or violated the lease repeatedly within a 12-month period, this gives the tenant 7 days to vacate before the landlord can file for eviction.
In certain situations, a tenant may have legal reasons to fight the eviction and get the opportunity to stay in the rental unit in Florida. A tenant can be evicted for violating the rental or lease agreement or for not paying rent, but there are some situations in which a tenant could have good reasons to fight against an eviction. If a tenant is evicted for breaking some or all of the lease agreements, such as keeping pets when they are clearly not allowed, at that point the landlord is required to provide a 7-day notice to vacate.
The Court’s Role in Evictions
If a tenant opts to fight an eviction and fails to vacate within a certain time limit, then the landlord has to file a complaint. From this point forward, the court then establishes a hearing date. Both parties will attend that hearing.
A tenant will have up to five days maximum to file their answer in court after he or she receives the landlord’s complaint. All eviction defenses should be outlined in your official complaint and a Florida landlord-tenant lawyer can assist you with this. At this hearing, it is at the discretion of the judge to determine whether or not the tenant can be evicted as a result of the information filed by the landlord and the tenant’s response.
Should We Fight the Issue?
It is important to remember that litigating or arguing an eviction could cause you to spend money and time. If you have a strong defense, this can make sense. Scheduling a consultation with a Florida landlord-tenant lawyer can help give you a broad perspective of whether or not it makes sense to fight your eviction. A tenant who only needs a couple more days before moving to a new location might be able to come to terms with the landlord without filing in the legal system, however, for more serious issues it’s recommended that you consult with an attorney.
Common Defenses for Challenging Evictions
There are a few different types of defenses applicable to a tenant fighting an eviction. Knowing what applies to your case may be crucial for protecting your rights.
Landlord Engaged in Self-Help for Eviction
The law clearly outlines what landlords can and cannot do in Florida as it relates to eviction. A landlord cannot require a tenant to move out by shutting down the utilities or switching the door locks. A landlord who participates in any of these behaviors could be responsible for paying up three month’s rent to the tenant.
Landlord’s Eviction Notice or Service Had Errors
Very specific guidelines in Florida exist and must be followed when it comes to delivering an eviction notice to a tenant. If the notice of eviction does not include crucial information like the date that the tenant has to vacate the unit then the notice itself is considered defective. The error must be fixed and the eviction notice must be sent to the tenant again before starting the clock on the appropriate time period.
No Legal Grounds for Lease Violations
The landlord must give a tenant the opportunity to fix the violation before initiating an eviction lawsuit. Some of the most common violations for which the landlord has to allow the tenant the chance to fix include:
- Parking in unauthorized areas
- Having unauthorized guests, pets or vehicles
- Failing to maintain the rental unit in a sanitary/clean fashion
The tenant has to be given up to 7 days to correct this violation. If the violation is corrected, at this stage the landlord is not eligible to proceed with an eviction.
Retaliation Against the Tenant
Florida laws also protect tenants from being retaliated against by the landlord. This is outlined under Florida Statutes 83.64 and the most common types of acts that a landlord cannot engage in eviction procedures as retaliation for include:
- A tenant becoming involved in a tenant’s organization
- Tenant making official complaints to the landlord about failing to maintain the rental unit
- The tenant making a complaint to certain government agencies regarding a landlord’s violation of a housing, health or building code
- Ending the lease because of a call to active military
An eviction lawsuit may be started if the tenant exercised these rights and the landlord retaliated.
The Florida Fair Housing Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibit a landlord discriminating against the tenant based on national origin, race, gender, religion, family status and disability. If a landlord does evict a tenant by violating the Florida Fair Housing Act or the Federal Fair Housing Act, the tenant can use this discrimination as a defense in a legal case.
Unless a tenant is challenging an eviction that is based on not paying rent, it is important to realize that a Florida tenant still needs to pay rent during the eviction proceedings. The court registry receives this rent rather than the landlord. A landlord can automatically win an eviction case and the tenant will be evicted if you do not continue to pay rent over the course of the eviction proceedings.
If you find yourself in the midst of a dispute with a landlord or a tenant, it is critical to evaluate all of your different options and construct a comprehensive defense or legal materials designed to carry out a lawsuit. The right attorney can make a big difference on the impact of your case. Given that housing issues can often generate anxiety and a feeling of overwhelm for tenants as well as the landlords responsible for the property. Educating yourself about your responsibilities as well as your rights under state and federal laws can go a long way towards clarifying what you need to do next. Do not hesitate to get help from a Florida landlord-tenant lawyer.