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Legal FAQ's
Residential Landlord-Tenant

Q: How long does a landlord have to make a claim on a security deposit? 

A: Section 83.49, Florida Statutes, requires the landlord to give written notice of intent to claim a security deposit within 30 days of the date the tenant vacates the premises. The notice must be sent by certified mail and must be sent to the tenant’s last known address. There is specific language (supplied in Section 83.49, Florida Statutes) that must be included in the notice. A landlord who isn’t going to make a claim on a security deposit is required to return the deposit within 15 days of the date the tenant vacates the premises. 

Q: Two days ago, a landlord and tenant signed a lease for a residential property. The tenant changed his mind and no longer wants to rent this property. Is there a rescission period after the execution of a lease, giving the tenant the right to change his or her mind and cancel the lease? 

A: No. There is no Florida law that provides a tenant with an automatic rescission period for executed leases. However, the tenant may have a rescission period if the lease agreement specifically provides for one. 
 

Q: I’m the broker and handle the property management for a residential landlord. The tenants’ security deposit and advance rent are held in my brokerage company’s escrow account. If the owner sells the property, may I as the property manager transfer the tenant’s security deposit and advance rent to the new owner? 

A: Yes. Under Section 83.49(7), Florida Statutes, upon the sale of rental property, any and all security deposits or advance rents being held for the benefit of the tenants shall be transferred to the new owner, together with any earned interest and an accurate accounting showing the amounts to be credited to each tenant’s account. 

Q: I’m a property manager, and I have one tenant who is chronically late paying rent.  The tenant eventually pays, but not until a day or two after receiving my three-day notice to pay or quit the premises.  The landlord and I are tired of playing this game. When we renew the lease, can the landlord add a section that says that the landlord can immediately evict once rent is one day late? 

A: Probably not. Section 83.47,Florida Statutes, provides that a lease provision is void and unenforceable if it purports to preclude the requirements of the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.  Since the contemplated provision seeks to destroy the statutorily mandated three-day notice for nonpayment of rent, a court would likely find the added provision unenforceable. 

Q: I primarily represent residential landlords, but recently a few commercial landlords have contacted me.  Since the Florida Supreme Court provided lease forms for only residential property, may I have my local attorney draft a commercial lease form that I can fill out for my landlords? 

A: For each commercial lease, the landlord and/or tenant will need a lawyer to draft a lease specific to the transaction. The landlord and tenant are also welcome to draft the lease themselves, although commercial leases are typically complicated enough to merit the services of a legal professional.

The Florida Supreme Court has provided only two lease forms that Realtors may use, and both are residential. If Realtors step beyond the role of scrivener (i.e., just filling in facts as dictated by the parties) on the residential lease forms, they’re likely engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. 

Q: I represent a landlord as property manager and have a tenant who will frequently be out of the country over the course of his yearlong lease. The tenant has asked me to accept 10 predrafted checks and to direct deposit one at the beginning of each of 10 months of his absence to the landlord’s bank account. May I do this? 

A: No. Rule 61J2-14.009, Florida Administrative Code, provides that an associate must deliver an escrow deposit “to the broker or employer no later than the end of the next business day following receipt of the item to be deposited. Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays shall not be construed as business days.”

The broker must then comply with Rule 61J2-14.010(1), Florida Administrative Code, by immediately depositing the funds in an escrow account. Rule 61J2-14.008(3), Florida Administrative Code, defines immediately as “the placement of a deposit in an escrow account no later than the end of the third business day following receipt of the item to be deposited. Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays shall not be construed as business days.” 

The agent/broker’s holding of the checks for eventual monthly deposit would be a clear violation of Florida law.

 

Q: I manage numerous residential properties, and have a tenant who moved into a property that has now been foreclosed on by the landlord/owner’s lender. The tenant was aware at the time he signed the lease that the property was in the foreclosure process. How long may the tenant remain in the property under his lease after the bank has taken back ownership of the property? 

A: First, never attempt to give legal advice to a tenant; always have the tenant seek advice from a licensed attorney. That said, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 will—with certain exceptions—allow the tenant to remain in the property for the remaining term of the lease, unless the bank that foreclosed on the property subsequently sells it to an owner-occupant purchaser.

In that case, the new third-party purchaser is required to provide the tenant no less than 90 days’ written notice of lease termination.  This Act is currently protecting tenants in foreclosure situations; however, the law will sunset in 2014 if further legislative action is not taken. 

Q: I went to see my doctor the other day because I’ve been feeling light-headed and have a strange rash developing on my back. To my horror, my doctor says I’ve been bitten by Cimex lectularius, commonly known as the bedbug. I live in an apartment, and my lease makes no mention of bedbugs.  I spoke to my landlord about this situation, and he said it wasn’t his problem. Is that true? 

A: No.  Pursuant to Section 83.51 (2)(a), Florida Statutes, “unless otherwise agreed in writing … the landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for …the extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms and bedbugs.” 

Q: I represent a residential landlord who lives out of state. I’m handling the property management of his houses, but not holding the advanced rent(s) or deposit(s).May the landlord open a bank account out of state with a bank that has a branch in Florida and still be complying with the Florida Statutes? 

A: For reasons that follow, we recommend that you advise your landlord to seek legal advice as to whether this intended action will violate Section 83.49(1)(a), Florida Statutes.  The statute states that the money must be held in a “Florida banking institution,” but doesn’t provide detailed guidance as to what qualifies as a Florida banking institution. It seems clear that the law is not going to mandate that a bank be chartered in the state of Florida, but merely have an operating presence and be properly registered to do business within the state. 

That said, one view is that to be in full compliance with the statute, the homeowner/landlord should open the account while personally in the state of Florida, within the branch in question.  

An opposing view is that as long as the financial institution has significant contacts with Florida and a tenant is easily able to recognize and locate the intermediary for questions concerning the status of any deposits, opening an account in an institution that is based outside the state, but that contains a registered business presence within the state, may actually comply with the law. For these delicate legal reasons, we suggest you refer your landlord to a licensed Florida attorney to discuss how these different arguments may apply to any specific financial intermediary your landlord wishes to choose.

 

Q: If a landlord loses title to a property as a result of foreclosure, are the tenants protected from immediate eviction by the new owner? 

A: Probably. The new owner must comply with the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009, which has been clarified and extended through 2014 by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This federal law provides that a new owner, whether it’s the foreclosing lender or a third-party buyer at a foreclosure sale, must honor the lease for the remainder of its term if the lease were entered into prior to the “notice of foreclosure.” Notice of foreclosure is defined as the date of title transfer. To receive this protection, there must be a “bona fide lease,” which consists of an arms-length transaction, where the landlord and tenants are not related and the amount of rent is not substantially less than fair market rent. 

Q: I am a property manager for a landlord who decided to rent out her second home for a three month rental period.  The rent for the three month period and a security deposit were due before the rental period began.  The tenant paid all of the money when it was due.  Since this is a short-term rental, is the landlord exempt from the requirements of Section 83.49, Florida Statutes, which obligate the landlord to hold the security deposit in a separate account or post a surety bond? 

A: Based on these facts, the landlord is not exempt from Chapter 83, Florida Statutes.  Therefore, the landlord or the landlord’s agent must either place the security deposit in a separate account until the money is actually due the landlord or the landlord must post a surety bond. 

Q: I am a property manager for a single-family home. There is a homeowners’ association, and the tenant recently told me that the association is demanding that the tenant pay rent to the association instead of to the landlord. I know the owner is behind on paying his association dues, but can the association do this? 

A: Yes. Section 720.3085(8), Florida Statutes, states in part that "if the parcel owner is delinquent in paying any monetary obligation due to the association, the association may demand that the tenant pay to the association the future monetary obligations related to the parcel. The demand is continuing in nature, and upon demand, the tenant must continue to pay the monetary obligations until the association releases the tenant or the tenant discontinues tenancy in the parcel." If the owner believes the association has overstepped its authority, he should consult with his attorney. 

Q: I’m the property manager. My tenant voluntarily enrolled in the Army and then voluntarily opted to live in government quarters. Now he wants me to cancel the lease. Do I have to? 

A: Yes. According to Section 83.682(1), Florida Statutes, a service member who meets certain criteria may elect to terminate his or her lease. However, pursuant to the statute, the tenant must provide the landlord 30 days’ written notice, along with a copy of the official military orders or a written verification signed by the service member’s commanding officer. 

Q: I represent a seller and can’t gain access to show the property due to an uncooperative tenant. What can I do? 

A: Section 83.53, Florida Statutes (Landlord and Tenant), provides that tenants shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the dwelling for reasons including, but not limited to, making repairs as well as exhibiting the unit to prospective buyers. A landlord may notify tenants that they must remedy their noncompliance within seven days of receipt of the notice. If they don’t, the landlord has the right to terminate the lease and move for an eviction. 

Q: If a residential tenant doesn’t make a timely rent payment, may the landlord cut off his or her electricity and garbage collection service? 

A: No. Pursuant to Section 83.67(2), Florida Statutes, this would be a prohibited practice. Pursuant to Section 83.67(6), Florida Statutes, the landlord would be liable to the tenant for actual and consequential damages or three months’ rent, whichever is greater, and costs, including attorneys’ fees. 

Q: Is there a right to cancel a lease after a landlord and a tenant have executed a residential lease agreement, and before the tenant has moved into the property? 

A: No. Section 83, Part II, Florida Statutes, governing residential landlord and tenant law, doesn’t allow a tenant or a landlord an automatic rescission period or right to cancel for executed lease agreements. Once both the landlord and the tenant sign a lease agreement, it’s legally binding, and they must comply with the terms. However, parties may include a rescission period in the lease before it is signed. 

Q: I’m a sales associate working with a residential tenant. The lease requires that if the tenant is not renewing it, the tenant must give the landlord 90 days’ notice before vacating the property. In addition, the lease states that if the tenant doesn’t provide this notice, the tenant is liable for liquidated damages as provided in the lease. May the landlord require the 90-day notice? 

A: No. Although a lease with a specific duration may contain a provision that the tenant must notify the landlord prior to vacating the property upon expiration of the lease, it may not require more than 60 days’ notice. The lease may also state that the tenant is liable for liquidated damages if no notice is provided. However, Section 83.575(2), Florida Statutes, provides that the landlord must give a written notice to the tenant within 15 days before the start of the notification period contained in the lease, and that this notice must list all fees, penalties and other charges for which the tenant is liable. 

Q: I’m a property manager. The owner entered into a lease with her brother for an amount that is substantially less than the fair market rent for the property. The owner then defaulted on her mortgage payments, and the lender filed a foreclosure action. Will the owner’s brother be protected by the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, which President Obama signed into law? 

A: No. In order for a tenant to be protected by this law, there must be a bona fide lease or tenancy in place. A lease or tenancy is considered bona fide only if, in part, it is the result of an arms-length transaction or it requires rent that’s not substantially less than fair market rent for the property. In this case, neither appears to be true; therefore, the tenant would not be protected by this law. 

Q: I am a property manager. Once the tenant became aware that the landlord’s lender had begun foreclosure proceedings, the tenant stopped paying rent, rationalizing that if the landlord was not paying the mortgage payment, the tenant did not have to pay rent. If residential rental property is in foreclosure, is the tenant excused from paying rent? 

A: No. A tenant who stops paying rent may be given the three-day notice as set forth in Section 83.56(3), Florida Statutes. If the tenant does not pay rent or vacate within three business days after delivery of the notice, the landlord may file for eviction. 

Q: I’m a residential property manager for an owner who lives in Georgia. The owner wants to maintain the advanced rents and security deposit in an escrow account with his bank in Georgia. May he do this? 

A: No. Pursuant to Section 83.49(1), Florida Statutes, the landlord must hold the security deposit and advanced rents in an account held in a Florida banking institution. 

Q: I represent a tenant who’s renting a single-family home on a month-to-month basis. The lease has no definite termination date, and rent is due on the first day of each month. On Feb. 20, the landlord gave the tenant written notice terminating the tenancy on March 15. Is this notice sufficient? 

A: No. The Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act provides that either party may terminate a month-to-month tenancy by giving not less than 15 days notice prior to the end of any monthly period. In this case, the next monthly period begins on March 1 (the day rent is due). The landlord’s notice is defective because it was given less than 15 days prior to the end of the previous monthly period. Therefore, the tenant has the right to retain possession for the entire month of March. 

Q: May a landlord show a property to a prospective buyer if a tenant is living in it? 

A: Yes. As per Section 83.53(1), Florida Statutes, a tenant may not unreasonably withhold consent to a landlord to enter a dwelling unit to show it to a prospective or actual purchaser or tenant. 

Q: I represent a tenant. The landlord and tenant entered into a contract to lease and then entered into a lease agreement. Some terms in the lease agreement differ from the terms in the contract to lease. Which controls? 

A: Once the parties enter into a lease agreement, the terms of the lease agreement control, even if they conflict with terms of the contract to lease. 

Q: If a residential tenant doesn’t make his or her rent payment on time, may the landlord change the locks to prevent the tenant from gaining access to the dwelling? 

A: No. This would be a prohibited practice pursuant to Section 83.67(2), FS. Pursuant to Section 83.67(6), FS, the landlord would be liable to the tenant for actual and consequential damages or three months’ rent, whichever is greater, and for costs, including attorneys’ fees. 

Q: Is there a period in which a tenant or a landlord may rescind a residential lease agreement after entering into it and before the tenant has moved into the property, giving either party the right to cancel their obligations under the lease? 

A: No. Florida’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act does not allow a tenant or a landlord an automatic rescission period for executed lease agreements. Once both parties have signed a lease agreement, it’s legally binding, and they must comply with the terms. However, there may be a rescission period if the parties executed a lease that provides for one. 

Q: I’m a property manager for a landlord who entered into a one-year written lease with a tenant. The tenant recently notified the landlord that she’s terminating the lease several months early because she’s buying a house. She says Florida law permits first-time homebuyers to terminate a lease early. Is this true? 

A: No. There is no provision in Florida law that gives a tenant the right to terminate a written lease early based on the tenant’s decision to buy a home. Absent a provision in the lease giving the tenant such a right, the tenant could be liable to the landlord if she terminates the lease early. 

Q: I’m a property manager for a residential landlord who obtained a writ of possession to evict a tenant. May I remove the tenant’s property that remains inside the apartment after the sheriff executes the writ? 

A: Yes. Section 83.62 (2), Florida Statutes, provides in part that at the time the sheriff executes the writ of possession or at any time thereafter, the landlord or the landlord’s agent may remove any personal property found on the premises to or near the property line. The statute further provides that neither the sheriff nor the landlord or the landlord’s agent shall be liable to the tenant or any other party for the loss, destruction or damage to the property after it has been removed. 

Q: Is a tenant’s residential lease automatically canceled if the landlord sells the property? 

A: No. There is no provision in the Residential Landlord/Tenant Act stating that a tenant’s lease automatically terminates in the event the landlord sells the dwelling. The lease itself, however, could include a provision that would allow the landlord to terminate the lease. 

Q: I own a home that I leased to a tenant. The lease commenced in January and ends in December of the same year. I recently decided to put the home up for sale and informed the tenant that I would be showing it to prospective buyers. The tenant is unwilling to let me show the property while his lease is in effect; however, the lease doesn’t specify whether he can refuse showings. May the tenant do so? 

A: No. Section 83.53(1), Florida Statutes, provides “[t]he tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the dwelling unit from time to time in order to … exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers … .” 

Q: I manage a residential property for an owner.  The owner won't allow the tenant to have a waterbed on the premises.  May a landlord do this? 

A: No. Section 83.535, Florida Statutes, states that a landlord may not prohibit a tenant from using a flotation bedding system in a dwelling unit as long as the flotation bedding system doesn’t violate any applicable building codes.

The statute requires that the tenant carry, in the tenant’s name, flotation insurance in an amount deemed reasonable to protect the tenant and owner against personal injury and property damage to the dwelling units.  The policy must carry a loss payable clause to the owner of the building. 

Q: A landlord has placed a newspaper advertisement stating that he will rent his residential property only to nonsmokers. I represent the applying tenant, a smoker who feels that he is being discriminated against. If the landlord decides not to lease the property to the tenant based solely on the fact that he is a smoker, would that be a violation of the Fair Housing Act? 

A: No. A smoker is not a member of a protected class as defined under the Fair Housing Act. Under the Fair Housing Act, the only protected classes are as follows: race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national origin. Thus, the landlord’s refusal to rent his residential property to the tenant based solely on the fact that he is a smoker is not a violation of the Fair Housing Act. 

Q: I’m a property manager. A residential tenant who is in a rock band came back from the band’s European tour and trashed his condo rental. He damaged, destroyed and defaced the landlord’s property.

The tenant was very apologetic and has offered to pay for all the damage, but my landlord wants him out. May we terminate the lease even if the tenant is willing to pay for all the damage? 

A: Yes. Pursuant to Section 83.56 (2) (a), Florida Statutes, the landlord may immediately terminate the lease and provide the tenant seven days notice to vacate the premises if the tenant materially failed to comply with his obligations under Section 83.52, Florida Statutes, or material provisions of the rental agreement and where the noncompliance is of a nature that the tenant should not be given an opportunity to cure it.

The statute indicates that examples of noncompliance that are of a nature that the tenant shouldn’t be given an opportunity to cure include, but are not limited to, destruction, damage, or misuse of the landlord’s property by intentional act. 

Q: I represent a landlord who entered into a written residential lease with a tenant who is a member of the United States Armed Forces. After signing the lease, the tenant received military orders to move into government quarters. Does the tenant have a right to terminate the lease based on those orders? 

A: Yes. Section 83.682 of The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act provides several grounds upon which a “servicemember” may terminate his or her lease. Among them, 83.682(1)(d) provides that when a tenant who is a “servicemember” receives military orders requiring the tenant to move into government quarters, the tenant “may terminate the rental agreement by providing the landlord with a written notice of termination to be effective on the date stated in the notice that is at least 30 days after the landlord’s receipt of the notice.” 

Q: I represented a tenant who entered into a written residential lease in an apartment complex. The tenant recently called to say he has seen several mice in his unit. Is the landlord required to exterminate the mice? 

A: Yes, unless an agreement between the landlord and the tenant states otherwise. Section 83.51(2) of The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act stipulates that “Unless otherwise agreed in writing ... the landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single family home or duplex shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for: the extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood destroying organisms, and bedbugs …” 

Q: When I serve a three-day notice for a residential tenant to pay rent or vacate the premises, may I include a demand for payment of security deposit, late fees or attorney fees? 

A: No. Additional charges, unless designated as rent in a written agreement, do not constitute rent, as defined in Section 83.43(6), Florida Statutes. A three-day notice which demands payment of charges other than rent would be defective. 

Q: I’m a property manager. One of my owners sold his home and instructed me to transfer his tenant’s security deposit and advance rents to the new owner. Must I obtain the tenant’s permission before transferring the funds from my escrow account to the new owner? 

A: No. Section 83.49(7), Florida Statutes, provides that upon the sale or transfer of title of rental property, all security deposits or advance rents being held for the benefit of the tenants shall be transferred to the new owner, together with any earned interest and an accurate accounting showing the amounts to be credited to each tenant’s account. Therefore, you are not required to obtain the tenant’s consent prior to transferring the funds to the new owner. 

Q: If a residential tenant damages the property and abandons it, may the landlord claim part of the security deposit for damages and use the balance to offset rent lost while seeking a new tenant? 

A: Yes. Under Section 83.49, Florida Statutes, the landlord may make a claim on the security deposit within 30 days after the tenant vacates. Also, under Section 83.595, Florida Statutes, the landlord may hold the tenant liable for amounts the landlord couldn’t recover from re-letting the property. 

Q: I’m leasing a home that I own. The tenant informed me about a problem with the plumbing in one of the bathrooms. We both agree that I have an obligation to repair the problem.  However, the tenant claims that I must provide at least one day’s notice prior to entering the dwelling and that the repair may only be made after 11 a.m. What type of notice must I give the tenant before entering the home for repairs, and during what time of day may the repairs be made? 

A: Section 83.53(2), Florida Statutes, stipulates that a “landlord may enter the dwelling unit upon reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time for purpose of repair of the premises.” The statute further provides that reasonable notice “is notice given at least 12 hours prior to the entry” and that reasonable time “shall be between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.” 

Q: Lightning caused a fire that destroyed a residential tenant’s apartment. The tenant moved out and gave the landlord notice that he was terminating the rental agreement and wanted his security deposit back. Must the landlord return the security deposit to the tenant? 

A: Under these circumstances, the landlord must comply with Section 83.49(3), Florida Statues, either by returning the security deposit within 15 days or by giving the required 30-day notice of intent to impose a claim for damages.

Section 83.63, Florida Statues, provides that if the premises are damaged or destroyed other than by the wrongful or negligent acts of the tenant so that the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and immediately vacate the premises and provides that the landlord must comply with 83.49 (3)'s requirements. 

Q: May I prepare an addendum to the Supreme Court approved lease forms on behalf of the landlord? 

A: No. A real estate licensee is only permitted to fill in the blanks of the Supreme Court approved lease forms. 

Q: Suppose a tenant and landlord entered into a residential lease that requires the landlord to maintain the air conditioning unit. The tenant reports that the unit isn’t working but the landlord refuses to fix it. Is there a Florida law regarding the length of time that a landlord has in which to make repairs to appliances such as an air conditioner? 

A: No. However, the parties may address this issue in detail in their lease. If the lease merely obligates the landlord to repair the air conditioning unit, the tenant may still have some relief. He or she will have to comply with Section 83.56(1), Florida Statutes, which advises, in part, that “if the landlord materially fails to comply with … material provisions of the rental agreement within seven days after delivery of written notice by the tenant specifying the noncompliance and indicating the intention of the tenant to terminate the rental agreement by reason thereof, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.”