Landlord/Tenant Law

Florida Landlord-Tenant Law

Sally rents an apartment in Tallahassee. Her landlord, Mark, hasn’t fixed her leaking toilet since she left him a voicemail about the problem four days ago. Other tenants in her complex have been complaining that Mark hasn’t replied to their maintenance requests, either. She’s a first-time renter, so she’s unsure of how to handle the problem.

In this situation, Sally and her fellow tenants may have a strong case to take Mark to court for breaking his part of their lease agreements. In their leases, the landlord is responsible for repairing damages beyond standard wear and tear. Many situations like this can be resolved with just a notice from a lawyer without needing to go to court, though.

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Florida landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.

Security Deposits

A security deposit is a normal part of a lease agreement in Florida that is meant to cover unpaid rent and/or any repairs to damages and restorative refurbishment beyond normal wear and tear once a tenant moves out. The landlord can charge the tenant any amount for a security deposit. Typically, a security deposit totals to one to two months’ rent.

Once the tenant moves out, the landlord has 15 days to return the deposit with interest. If the landlord decides to use a portion of the deposit, they must mail a written intent to claim notice to the tenant within 30 days after they move out detailing the required repairs or services and their dollar amount.

If the tenant doesn’t object to the claim within 15 days of receiving the notice, they still retain the right to seek damages under Florida law. If the landlord doesn’t submit the notice within the 30-day time limit, they forfeit the right to impose their claim but may file for damages after the deposit is returned.

Lease Agreements

The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding agreement of the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:

  • The security deposit amount and what it covers.
  • Roommate and guest policies.
  • The rent rate and payment schedule.
  • Repair policy and procedures.
  • A pet policy.

Lease Termination and Eviction Rules

A lease can terminate in two ways: naturally when the lease runs its course or when the tenant or landlord breaks the lease agreement in material noncompliance—e.g. the tenant doesn’t pay rent or the landlord fails to repair property damage from a natural disaster. In any case, Florida’s landlord-tenant laws require advance notice prior to the lease’s termination or the tenant’s eviction.

When a lease is nearing the end of its term and the landlord or tenant decides to not renew it for any reason, they must provide advance notice to the other party no less than:

  • 60 days prior to termination if it is a yearly lease.
  • 30 days prior to termination if it is a quarterly lease.
  • 15 days prior to termination if it is a monthly lease.
  • 7 days prior to termination if it is a weekly lease.

The landlord may evict a tenant who fails to pay rent three non-holiday weekdays after the landlord has notified the tenant of their potential eviction for nonpayment. If a tenant breaks the lease agreement in any other way besides not paying rent, the tenant has seven days from the landlord’s notice to remedy the situation before they’re evicted.

Florida Fair Housing Act

Florida and federal discrimination laws are employed in housing practices and landlord-tenant relationships under Florida’s Fair Housing Act, which states that landlords may not:

  • Prevent tenants from inspecting housing,
  • Prevent tenants from renting or negotiating for housing,
  • Bar tenants from access to rental-related memberships,
  • Limit tenants to different facilities or services,
  • Retaliate against or intimidate tenants who exercise their fair housing rights,
  • Create unfair rules, terms or privileges in a leasing agreement, or
  • Otherwise discriminate against a tenant…

Based on a tenant’s protected characteristic, including:

  • Familial status, including pregnancy or adoption
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Handicap

Getting Legal Help from a Florida Attorney

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you may want to take a look at the Landlord & Tenant Handbook published by the Florida Citizen Dispute Settlement Program for more detailed information on Florida landlord-tenant law. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.

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