As a Florida landlord, you have a lot of legal responsibilities that govern every aspect of your business, from how you select applicants and maintain the property to when you can enter the unit and how you must deal with non-paying renters. Most of these details are outlined in your rental agreement.
While some landlords deliberately take advantage of their tenants, others are genuinely unfamiliar with some aspects of landlord-tenant law or may be dealing with older lease agreements.
Below is a list of five clauses that are legally unenforceable in Florida. If any of them are included in your tenancy agreement, see an attorney about making it legally compliant with state and federal housing laws.
1. Waiver of landlord responsibility to keep the premises habitable
A rule called the implied warranty of habitability obligates landlords to keep rental properties in safe and liveable condition. If you don’t take care of necessary repairs, such as replacing a broken-down heater or damaged lock, your tenant has options available, including the right to withhold rent.
2. Waiving right to return of security deposit
Although security deposits are not required in Florida, if you do take them, state law specifies how you have to hold it and when it must be returned. Under Florida Statute 83.49(1), you must hold it in a separate bank account and return it within 15 days of the tenant moving out unless you intend to make a claim against it to pay for damage to the unit. In that case, you have 30 days to send written notice to the tenant via certified mail. You cannot simply keep it.
3. Unrestricted access
Except in cases of emergency, Florida landlords must generally give their tenants reasonable notice (usually 12 hours) before entering a rented unit. If you are entering to make repairs, you must do so between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. You cannot enter the property at will and with a frequency that could be perceived as harassing.
4. Punitive actions for nonpayment of rent
If your tenant fails to pay their rent on time or unreasonably withholds payments, you are allowed to take steps to legally evict them. What you cannot do is take constructive eviction measures, such as shut off utilities or change the locks. Doing so can make you liable to the tenant for the cost of their damages or three months’ rent, whichever is greater.
5. Restricting tenancies of people with children
Some landlords don’t want to rent to people with children and set unreasonable occupancy limits, such as only two people in a two-bedroom home or apartment. Others restrict families to certain floors or areas of the building. Some of these rules discriminate against families and cannot be enforced.
Lack of familiarity with tenant rights can cost you a lot if a tenant complains to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, so it’s important to have your rental lease agreements reviewed by an attorney. At Atlas Law, we support and represent landlords and property managers across the entire state, so no matter where your property is located, we can help. Contact us today at (813) 241-8269.