Protecting Your Livelihood During the Cancel Rent and Rent Control Movements

The conversations around canceling or controlling rent have been prevalent both locally and nationally as people and politicians look for ways to alleviate some of the financial stress brought on by the pandemic. Unfortunately, there are many people looking to take advantage of the situation by skirting eviction laws and hoping the government will bail them out of the significant debt they owe to landlords.

At the end of the day, landlords are people doing a job just like everybody else, and they have a right to be paid for their services just like everybody else. But, as a landlord, what can you do about these movements?

Understand what rent control and rent cancellation is

Rent control and cancellation are sometimes used interchangeably, but there’s a sizable difference in how each works.

With rent control, the government would play a large role in controlling the prices of rental properties. This would mean limiting the amount rent can go up year over year along with likely controlling the price for certain amenities and square footage. In Tampa Bay, lawmakers attempted but failed to execute rent control through a “loophole” that allows lawmakers to implement rent control ONLY during a housing crisis. The legal requirements to prove a housing crisis exists and necessitates rent control are significant.

For rent cancellation, the idea is to forgive all overdue rent tenants incurred over the course of the last several years. This concept would cost landlords a massive amount of money and put their livelihoods at risk. Some landlords, especially those with fewer properties, would likely never recover.

Stay informed

You should stay connected to the latest conversations. Both discussions are evolving at both the local and federal levels. This doesn’t mean you have to sit down and watch the news every night or check online news stories every day, but you should at least be aware of what the latest information is.

Right now, multiple efforts for rent control in Florida have failed. Some of those conversations have shifted more towards rental assistance which should benefit both the tenant and the landlord.

Get involved

There are several ways to get involved and protect your livelihood against the movements. You can attend and engage with politicians are local meetings when available to the public. This is a way to make sure your voice isn’t completely drowned out but a loud section of the public pushing for rent cancellation and control.

Another option could be to join industry and lobbying groups to make sure there is more prevalent messaging surrounding landlord rights and the need for tenants to pay what is owed. These groups are comprised of industry professionals who know how to craft timely and useful campaigns to ensure rent and other payments are never put on the backburner by politicians.

Be reasonable

This one is important. While these movements do put landlords at risk, there is a reason so many people are pushing for them. Costs across the board are up right now and many people are drowning in debt, often of no fault of their own. Be willing to help your tenants and refer them to programs that can help them overcome these debts, such as the “Our Florida” program.

While there are some people with bad intentions trying to take advantage of these movements, there are also people who genuinely need your help. It’s imperative that we all do what we can to support those in need. If you’re able to provide support to those people, the rent control and cancellation movements are far less likely to gain steam. If you refuse to help and instead kick or lock people out of their homes, you’re only going to add fuel to the fire.

You should always be prepared for these conversations. The best way to make sure you don’t put yourself in any compromising situations is to work with an attorney. At Atlas Law, we know real estate in Florida and we advocate day in and day out for landlords. Contact us today.

What To Do When a “Tester” Calls Your Offices

We’re hearing from clients about a troubling trend in Florida. So-called “testers” are contacting various housing offices, trying to take advantage of your hard work by catching you up in a line of questioning and threatening to turn the short conversation into an expensive lawsuit.  While some of these testers are government agencies, the majority are individuals who are encouraged by attorneys to contact housing providers.  These individuals and attorneys can be more interested in turning a profit than policing the housing industry.  

A tester will call a housing provider posing as a potential renter.  The tester will ask specific questions about whether or not felons qualify for housing, whether the housing provider accepts Section 8 housing vouchers, as well as similar scenarios. Because of the conflicting political landscape between state and local governments, numerous local jurisdictions are passing ordinances that directly affect your answers to these questions.  These local ordinances are often passed without much notice, and you might be completely unaware of their existence.  The caller knows this, and an incorrect answer can result in you facing a demand for attorneys’ fees. We want to prepare you for those calls and make sure you don’t get caught up in these unfortunate situations.

Don’t provide specific responses

Your best defense is to familiarize yourself with your legal requirements at the local, state, and Federal level.  If you are uncertain about your legal obligations, you should not provide a definite response. If someone calls your offices asking about whether you accept Section 8 vouchers or felons and you’re unsure of the answer, just tell them that.

Your best response is to say something like “I am unable to answer questions about your specific situation without viewing your application. We can better assess your qualifications after you submit one,” and then provide them with the application.

This protects you if the caller is trying to extract an incorrect answer out of your leasing staff. At the end of the day, your best defense is to not provide specific responses that could run afoul of local, state or Federal laws.  You should encourage anyone who is attempting to qualify for residency to use the application process – that is why you spent time and effort putting the application form, credit checks, and background checks together.  

Take advantage of your own application process

When these testers call, many are simply looking for a clear-cut violation that results in an immediate demand for attorneys’ fees. This means they’re not going to want to put any money in before trying to get money out of you, and they usually don’t want to put in a lot of effort.

So, when you use the suggested talking points provided above, mention to them that you have an application process that includes an application fee. Generally, testers are not going to be willing to contact housing providers and pay numerous application fees to see whether or not you decline their qualifications. Additionally, many testers won’t follow up by filling out an application form so that you can run a proper background or financial check.  

It’s important to be flexible and consider waiving your application fees whenever reasonable, but you should be wary if you’re unsure of a caller’s motives. Don’t commit to waiving the fee if you’re uncomfortable with the situation and there is no legal basis for waiving the application fee.

Don’t fall for threats

Most of these testers have no intention of ever going through the legal process. If they do catch you up and start to threaten a lawsuit you should end the call and contact your lawyer. You may never hear from them again after you hang up, but your best bet is to make sure your attorney is aware of the situation and prepared to defend your rights.

At Atlas Law, we are a landlord’s advocate. We will stand by your right to run your business unbothered by those trying to make a quick dollar at your expense. We operate in every county in Florida. Contact us today to protect your hard work.

Rent Control Could Be Coming to Florida

The real estate market in Florida is showing no signs of slowing down. Cities across the state ranked among the hottest markets in 2021, and Zillow projects Tampa Bay and Jacksonville to be the two hottest markets in the country in 2022.

A hot real estate market means good things for landlords looking to fill your rental properties, but it’s also going to add more fuel to the conversation surrounding rent control. Rent control has long been viewed as a tool for large cities like New York City, San Francisco, Oakland, and Washington, D.C., but we’re seeing more municipalities here in Florida consider the move.

So, what do you need to know about the conversation?

State law specifically addresses rent control

Lawmakers in certain parts of the state are questioning whether the state law allows for counties or cities to implement rent control. Chapter 125 Section 0103 of Florida lays out the very limited situations in which municipalities may implement rent control, but there remains debate over the process to prove the need for rent control and how to enforce it.

All of the following circumstances must be met to enact rent control:

  • Officials prove there is a “housing emergency so grave as to constitute a serious menace to the general public”
  • Officials prove rent control is the only means to eliminate the housing emergency
  • Proper public hearing laws are followed
  • Voters in the municipality (whether it be city or county) vote on the measure

The requirements to enact rent control are strict, and any such measure would only be active for 12 months before lawmakers would have to start the process all over again, proving every year the measure is necessary and the only means to ending a housing crisis.

Some cities are already discussing rent control

We’re seeing lawmakers push and even vote on rent control measures. In Tampa Bay, a vote recently failed which would establish a “tenant bill of rights,” but lawmakers say the conversation about rent control is likely to continue. In St. Petersburg, city attorneys concluded the legal pathway to rent control is too narrow and the execution of such a measure would be too expensive.

You can see these conversations are happening. Right now, lawmakers seem to be hesitant on pulling the trigger because the only legal option is to declare a housing state of emergency which carries a large burden of proof. The news is mostly good for landlords hoping to maintain current rent prices or even raise prices in high-demand areas. But you should understand these conversations are happening and are likely to continue. Some state lawmakers want to repeal the current measure and make it easier to impose rent control in Florida.

Prepare to defend your rights

State law seems pretty straightforward on rent control and the very limited avenues municipalities have to enact it. However, some lawmakers believe there are loopholes in current state law.

This is an ongoing conversation, so you should know your rights and be prepared to defend them. At Atlas Law, we are the landlord’s advocate. We have extensive experience fighting for landlords and are ready to fight against rent control. Contact us today! We are your partner in property management.

The Top 5 Causes of Landlord/Tenant Disputes in Florida

At Atlas Law, we have spent a lot of time working with Florida landlords. In fact, one of the things that makes our firm unique is that we can handle Real Estate and eviction cases across every county in Florida. That means that we’ve worked all over the state, and we have seen it all.

It is very common for landlords and tenants to end up in some sort of dispute over rented property. This is not exactly a breaking development, but over the years we have observed that it happens about some issues much more often than others. In order to know what issues to protect yourself over, here are the top 5 most common causes of landlord/tenant disputes in Florida:

Security Deposit

Most landlords collect a Security Deposit when a tenant moves in. The point of the Security Deposit is that it can be used to repair any major damage to the property caused by the tenant after they move out. If they did not cause any major damage, the Security Deposit is returned. Arguments over the return of Security Deposits are more common than almost anything else in Florida property management.

Rent Payment

Issues over rent payment hit a crescendo in the pandemic that began in early 2020. Clear lines about rent payment – such as late fees and eviction dates – suddenly became complicated and difficult. Ever since, navigating late or missing rent payments and when evictions are eligible has been more complex.

Property Damages

Some tenants cause a lot of damage to the property. This can be especially true of properties with very young children, college students, and animals. Who pays for repairs to the property damages – and when – is a common sore spot in Florida.

Repairs

When things break in the property, it is generally the landlord’s responsibility to have it repaired. Organizing those repairs can be difficult, and can lead to conflict between the tenants in the non-functioning property and the landlord trying to fix it up.

Subletting and Airbnb

Breaking the lease is an issue in all states, but one specific citation is a common issue in Florida. Most leases include a clause that makes it clear the agreed-upon tenants are the only ones who can live there, and they cannot charge anyone else rent to come and stay. Still, tons of rental properties are listed on Airbnb every day by the tenants and not the landlord. Resolving this broken lease issue is a common issue in the Sunshine State.

Get the Help You Need Today

At Atlas Law, we are a landlord’s advocate. If your tenants have taken issue with you over one of these common concerns (or any others,) we are here to argue for your side and help you resolve it. For help with any landlord/tenant issues, contact Atlas Law today! We are your partner in property management!

When Can A Landlord Enter Their Rental Properties?

 

 

 

 


Your home is a place where you should expect to enjoy a reasonable degree of privacy. This holds true whether you own or rent the home, although with rental properties, there will be times when you as a landlord need to access the premises. 

Does this mean that you can show up unannounced or on a frequent basis? Not at all. Florida tenants have a right to privacy, but they must still provide access to their landlords when necessary. In this blog, we explain when landlords can enter their rental properties and rules they must observe before and after their visit.

You Must Provide Notice

Florida Statute 83.53 states that a landlord must notify the tenant at least 12 hours in advance of their intention to enter the rental unit. Once the notice has been issued, they can come into the property between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. 

As long as you provide proper notice beforehand, your tenant cannot refuse to let you into the rental unit. They can’t try to claim they never received the notice or unreasonably deny access after they are aware of your intent to enter.

Emergency Situations

You may not have to give notice if an emergency situation arises. Under Florida landlord-tenant law, you may be able to access the rental unit within less than 12 hours under circumstances like the following:

  • There has been an emergency, such as a fire, hurricane, or flood.
  • The tenant is refusing you entry after receiving reasonable notice. 
  • You have reason to believe that the tenant has abandoned the property. The law permits you to enter the unit without notice if the tenant has not been present for over 15 days (with monthly leases) or a period of time equal to half of the rental period. 

Unfortunately, tenants have been known to file complaints and even claims against Florida landlords who act on their access rights, creating a difficult situation that all too often goes against the landlord. This is where working with an experienced attorney can help.

Contact Atlas Law for Efficient and Experienced Legal Help

When a tenant denies you access to your property or otherwise violates your rights as a landlord, you need a Florida lawyer with a long history of experience in Florida landlord-tenant law. To learn more and get legal representation you can trust, call Atlas Law at (813) 241-8269.

Landlords’ Rights In Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are a new landlord or a longtime landlord who has never dealt with tenant law disputes, you may be unsure how to handle one when they arise. Understanding your rights as a landlord in Florida is essential if you hope to protect yourself and your family. Here are some of the most important landlords’ rights you should be sure to take note of. 

Florida Rent Laws

Under Florida law, there are many different rent-related laws you will need to be aware of as a landlord. This will include rules for the steps you can take when your tenant fails to pay rent, how much time they have to pay overdue rent before you have the right to evict them, and more. Failure to adhere to these laws could result in considerable financial costs. 

Security Deposit Rules in Florida 

As a landlord, you will want to be sure to protect yourself financially, as tenants often wind up in situations where they cannot pay rent or damage the property. For this reason, many landlords require a security deposit before a tenant can move in. 

Florida law does not place a limit on how much you can charge for your security deposit. But you will be required to return security deposits to tenants within one month of them moving out. 

Landlord’s Right to Enter Their Florida Rental Property 

One of the most significant disputes Florida landlords and tenants have is when the landlord has the authority to enter the rental property. But the law is clear: landlords have the right to access their rental property after giving their tenants a minimum of twelve hours’ notice. 

Landlords are also prohibited under the law from attempting to enter the property in retaliation after a tenant has made reasonable complaints regarding unsafe living conditions on the property. If you have questions about whether your rights have been violated or how to take action to ensure that you do not violate your tenant’s rights, contact our office.

Florida Lease Termination and Eviction Laws 

Some of the most complex landlord/tenant laws surround lease termination and tenant eviction. Under the law, landlords have the right to terminate a tenancy whenever the stipulations allow for such in an existing lease agreement when the tenant has already violated the terms of the lease on multiple occasions. A good example could be a tenant who intentionally destroyed the property in some way. 

Landlords must give their tenant’s a minimum amount of time to vacate the premises and pay their rent in full before an eviction can be filed. You must further discuss the costs of eviction with your attorney to best decide how to proceed if you are considering lease termination or eviction as a landlord. 

When your landlords’ rights have been violated, or you are dealing with a tenant dispute, you need an experienced attorney advocating for you. Call Atlas Law at (813) 241-8269 to get the legal guidance and support you need. Or fill out our online contact form, and we’ll contact you to learn more about your case.

Landlord Rights & Damaged Property

Though there is a significant amount of information regarding a tenant’s rights, it is equally essential to protect and safeguard the rights of the landlords as well. Landlords may receive unjustified condemnation because they have a perceived level of power over a tenant. 

Landlords are men and women who own property and wish to provide for their families—as does everyone else. From that perspective, you can quickly see how serious it is when a landlord must deal with actively destroying their property. If you find yourself in this position, here is how to proceed.

During An Eviction

When landlords have a dispute with their tenants, they find themselves in a unique situation. The person—or people—they are arguing with live on their property. There are instances when tenants destroyed or intentionally damaged property because of an eviction. If the person thinks the landlord is powerless to stop them, they may (wrongly) decide to get even.

When you suspect someone is intentionally harming property you own, look at your lease. Under what circumstances are you able to enter the property? For example, you may need to give notice that you wish to enter the apartment or home. There may be a required obligatory waiting period that follows your request, which will be dependent on the lease. 

After gaining access to the rental property, document the damage. Take pictures. Add notes that include the time and date on which you are taking them. 

Repair

After getting estimates for the damage, show them to your tenant. Although it is possible to deduct the costs from the security deposit, you should be very careful and deliberate when doing so. Each state has specific laws and regulations regarding how these deposits are handled. 

It is highly recommended that you speak to legal counsel when drafting your lease. When you reach the clause regarding the security deposit, your attorney can explain how they need to be managed and used. 

If and when you can utilize these funds, do so. Suppose your tenant is not willing to pay for damages beyond what the security deposit covers, reach out to an attorney who handles landlord/tenant disputes. An attorney can advise you on your options moving forward. 

If it is a scenario where there is continued and reckless damage to your property, you do have the ability to contact the police. At worst, they will explain it isn’t a criminal matter. However, you will have an appropriate authority intervening. They will likely document and generate a report based on what occurred. 

Atlas Law  

When it comes to landlord/tenant disputes or eviction proceedings, Atlas Law proudly represents landlords throughout the entire state of Florida. If you have multiple units across several counties, we can represent all of them on your behalf. Should you have any additional questions or are ready to meet with an attorney, contact Atlas Law

Clauses To Include In A Lease Agreement

Clauses are the provisions in a contract. In other words, who is supplying whom with what? In terms of a rental agreement, they could outline who will be receiving the money, how repairs will happen, and the consequences of failing to meet an obligation. These can also extend out to the rights and responsibilities of the tenant or landlord.

Here are some of the clauses you should strongly consider having in your lease agreement. And it is always advisable to have legal counsel create, draft, or edit these on your behalf. You want to ensure that each clause or provision is enforceable and legal. 

Break Down The Facts

At the heart of your lease agreement is who the deal pertains to. Not only should you include your name and the renter’s name, but you need to establish the role of each. Don’t be hesitant to be overly specific. Obvious things that may get overlooked are the simple things, such as the address of the property. 

If it isn’t in the lease, it almost doesn’t exist. That’s why you include the rent, when it is due, when it is late, and the amount of notice you require if they plan on moving at the lease.

Safety Net

As a landlord, your lease is a means of protection. One of the biggest concerns you may have as a landlord is the tenant not paying—and rightfully so. If you are providing a habitable property for someone to live in, you deserve to be compensated for that. That is something that could and should end up moving towards eviction. Other issues that may be equally justifiable are if the property is being abused or criminal behavior is taking place there. 

Maintenance 

As a landlord, you are responsible for maintaining the property. When deciding what to put in your lease, consider adding a clause about how you expect to be notified when something needs to be repaired. Specific issues will be more time-sensitive, such as losing heat, air conditioning, or a critical appliance such as a refrigerator. 

Because preventive maintenance is cost-effective, you may decide to define specified intervals when you can enter the premises to conduct these. In addition, there should be an explanation as to how the tenant will permit you to do so. 

Atlas Law 

The amount of clauses that need to be included in your lease is extensive. Contact Atlas Law to schedule a consultation if you are a landlord, have further questions, or need professional legal counsel. We are a one-stop-shop for evictions, and we cover the entire state of Florida. 

How Landlords Can Protect Themselves

Business owners play a balancing act between establishing their companies while limiting their personal liability. This is why people can choose between different types of entities. Landlords are no different and should take the necessary steps to limit their exposure to risk and lawsuits. 

Consult A Lawyer

Preventing legal issues is an efficient use of your time and money when compared to reacting to one. One of the powerful tools you have at your disposal is the lease agreement that you have your tenants sign. Amid a disagreement, you can reflect back at the signed document that both parties agreed to.

Sleep well at night knowing that you have this. But the document is only as valuable as the person drafting it. An attorney who works with landlords uses his experience to create a lease agreement that is in your best interest. If you choose to utilize a generic template for your lease agreement, the responsibility and onus fall on you. 

Understand The Parameters

The easiest law to violate is the one you don’t know exists. There are even federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act that need to be followed. Failing to do so only exposes you to an increased risk of a lawsuit. 

For example, the Fair Housing Act prevents a landlord from discriminating against someone based on race, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. And it is just as important not to act in a way that may give someone the impression that you aren’t following this federal law. This includes everything from how you speak to someone on the phone to the questions you ask them. 

Security Deposits

A good policy is never to take someone’s time or money unnecessarily. Security deposits center around holding onto money that is not yours. In the state of Florida, the money you take from your tenants must go into a bank in Florida. There are no exceptions to this, even if you live outside of the state. 

Although it is up to you, the landlord, to determine if this money should go into an interest-bearing account, the interest is not yours. When you return the money to your tenant—either annually or upon the termination of the lease—the interest accrued goes with it. 

Atlas Law

Atlas Law proudly represents landlords throughout the state of Florida—in any county and jurisdiction. This extends to landlords who own multiple properties throughout the state. Protect yourself and your investment with the professional legal counseling offered at Atlas Law. Contact us to schedule your consultation today. 

Advice For New Landlords

Landlords need to possess a wide range of skills. They are real estate investors, business people, and leaders. Running a rental property is a business, and it requires a significant amount of interaction with a multitude of people and personalities.

To protect you and your business, here are tips and advice to help.

It Starts Before It Begins

Before you have someone sit down to sign the first lease, understand the laws in your state. These laws will impact everything from how you implement safety precautions to how you handle security deposits. Here are some common questions you should know the answer to:

  • Is my lease legal?
  • Do I have all the permits and licenses required by my state?
  • Do my units and property meet all applicable codes?

Hiring a professional and experienced attorney who represents landlords is the quickest way to know the answers to these questions. Your attorney may point out laws or regulations that you may have overlooked. 

Another way to avoid future problems is by developing a robust screening process. There are ways to choose tenants who have good credit ratings and strong recommendations from previous landlords. However, laws govern how you screen your applicants. And they are meant to ensure an equitable and fair selection process. Your lawyer can go over your approach and offer advice as to how to achieve this.  

Have A Plan For Challenges 

Your property is a business. If you financed its purchase, you likely depend on rent to pay the mortgage and to provide you an income. Every business is going to have hurdles and challenges. Yours may come in the form of people failing to pay rent.

Landlords will have to face people who lost their jobs or are withholding payment as a bargaining chip. Regardless of the reasons why you should develop a plan to deal with delinquent payments.

People may be quick to think they will simply call their attorney. Because being a landlord is a business, you need to balance out the cost and timeliness of pursuing legal action. Of course, there are situations where this may be your only option, but it should be the last one. 

You may start by simply talking to the tenant (preferably in person than by text or email). Document everything. These are things for your attorney should it reach that level. In addition to payment plans, you can have a series of notices to inform your tenant of their obligation to pay. You may even cite the lease. 

Lastly, have these warnings—and potential consequences—spelled out in the lease. When it is drafted appropriately, a signed lease is going to be the safety net. 

Atlas Law

Protect yourself and your property by hiring an attorney who represents landlords and their rights. A signed lease is only as strong as the person who drafted. Choose a professional and experienced attorney to support and advise you. If you are a landlord in need of legal representation, contact Atlas Law to schedule your consultation. We proudly represent the entire state of Florida.