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Q I’m a tenant in an apartment, and through no fault of mine, the plumbing in the bathroom stopped working. May I withhold some of my rent money because of this?

AYes, but only if you first comply with the statutory procedure described in Section 83.60(1), Florida Statutes. This section provides in part: “The defense of a material noncompliance with Section 83.51(1), Florida Statutes [1973], may be raised by the tenant if seven days have elapsed after the delivery of written notice by the tenant to the landlord, specifying the noncompliance and indicating the intention of the tenant not to pay rent by reason thereof.

“Such notice by the tenant may be given to the landlord, the landlord’s representative as designated pursuant to Section 83.51(1), a resident manager, or the person or entity who collects the rent on behalf of the landlord. A material noncompliance with Section 83.51(1), Florida Statutes, by the landlord is a complete defense to an action for possession based upon nonpayment of rent, and, upon [any] hearing, the court or the jury, as the case may be, shall determine the amount, if any, by which the rent is to be reduced to reflect the diminution in value of the dwelling unit during the period of noncompliance with Section 83.51(1), Florida Statutes [1973]. After consideration of all other relevant issues, the court shall enter appropriate judgment.”

Q An attorney wants to refer a customer to me for a referral fee. I checked the online license-verification system, and her name doesn’t appear as a licensed broker or sales associate. When I called her back, she confirmed that she doesn’t have a real estate license but threatened to sue me if I don’t agree to pay her the referral fee. May I pay her for this referral?

A No. Referral of real estate customers is a service of real estate as defined by Section 475.01, Florida Statutes. This activity for compensation requires the person to be the holder of a current, active real estate license. Attorneys licensed with The Florida Bar aren’t allowed to perform real estate service for compensation without a real estate license.

Real Estate Practice
Q How long must brokers keep their brokerage business records?

A According to Section 475.5015, Florida Statutes, “Each broker shall preserve at least one legible copy of all books, accounts, and records pertaining to her or his real estate brokerage business for at least 5 years from the date of receipt of any money, fund, deposit, check, or draft entrusted to the broker or, in the event no funds are entrusted to the broker, for at least 5 years from the date of execution by any party of any listing agreement, offer to purchase, rental property management agreement, rental or lease agreement, or any other written or verbal agreement which engages the services of the broker.”