Summer is a busy season for moving in Florida. This time of year is a popular time for families to move because it follows the spring real estate season and because school is out, parents won’t have to deal with enrolling their children in a new school mid-year. Landlords should ensure that they are aware of and in compliance with Florida law prior to renting.

Before signing a rental agreement or lease, landlords are encouraged to seek legal counsel to ensure that their lease complies with Florida law and that they are aware of the laws governing the landlord tenant relationship.

Landlord’s Responsibilities

In Florida, landlords are responsible for maintaining the dwelling. At all times during tenancy, the landlord shall (1) comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; (2) maintain the roofs; (3) doors; (4) floors; (5) steps; (6) porches; (7) exterior walls; (8) foundations; (9) and all other structural components in good repair. The landlord must also maintain the plumbing in reasonable working condition.

Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, when leasing a single family unit or duplex (a home divided into two apartments), the landlord shall make reasonable provisions for extermination of pests (rats, mice, roaches, ants, termites, and bedbugs) and shall provide locks and keys, garbage removal, running water, and smoke detection devices.

If the landlord fails to comply with the above requirements, within seven (7) days after delivery of a written notice by the tenant(s) specifying the non-compliance, the tenant may withhold rent or terminate the rental agreement.

If failure to comply with material provisions of the lease is caused by forces beyond the landlord’s control and the landlord has made and continues to make reasonable effort to correct the non-compliance, either party may terminate or alter the lease.

No Retaliation

If the tenant withholds rent in compliance with governing laws, the landlord may not retaliate against the tenant by discriminatorily increasing the tenant’s rent, decreasing services rendered, or by bringing or threatening to bring an action to evict or other civil action. The landlord also cannot terminate utilities, cannot prevent tenants from accessing the dwelling, and cannot remove tenant’s personal belongings without court order.

Take-Away

Before entering into a lease and/or taking potential adverse action against a tenant, it would serve the landlord’s best interest to consult an attorney to ensure that the lease provisions and the landlord’s actions are in compliance with applicable laws. A misstep or miscalculation on the landlord’s part may subject him/her to liability for damages and three month’s rent. If you have any questions concerning rentals, please feel free to contact me at alexander.howell@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1327.