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Landlord Tenant Disputes Archives - Atlas Law Tampa

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!

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

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. 

How 15 Days Can Have An Impact On A Landlord

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, it is essential to know the rights and responsibilities of tenants as outlined by Florida law. Even in the absence of a lease, these laws will serve in its place. 

Specifically, it is Chapter 83 of the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act that outlines these rights and responsibilities. According to statute, every tenant has a right to the following:

  • Operable doors and windows (with locks)
  • Hot water and heat
  • Plumbing
  • The installation of working smoke detectors before the tenant moves in (for single-family homes and duplexes) 

As a landlord, your lease cannot override the Florida Residential Tenant Act. For example, your lease might state that you can enter the premises as needed. Regardless of what it says or what was signed, this goes against Florida law. Landlords can only enter for agreed-upon repairs. Notice must be given to the tenant, and you should make accommodations to be there at a convenient time. 

Miami-Dade Change From 15 to 30 Days

In Miami-Dade County, legislation was introduced—and passed—that changes the notice requirement for termination of leases. Landlords in Miami-Dade County need to understand the Florida Residential Tenant Act and follow any changes made to it. This is what changed:

Under the Florida Residential Tenant Act, as a  landlord, you must give at least 15 days notice to month-to-month tenants advising that you are terminating the rental agreement. For anyone who lives in Miami-Dade County, that timeline changed to a minimum of 30 days

The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners made the change from 15 to 30 days. Generally, state law governs landlord-tenant relationships. Local officials acknowledged as much. However, those same officials felt that tenants needed more time to locate new housing once a lease was terminated.  The change from 15 to 30 days is something that could be amended once the pandemic has ended. According to Florida law, if the tenant is paying weekly, they only have to give a week’s notice to the landlord.

If you are a landlord in Miami-Dade County who has followed and understood the Florida Residential Tenant Act, 15 days notice no longer applies. Plan on giving your month-to-month tenants a minimum of 30 days of notice.  

Atlas Law 

At Atlas Law, we are a landlord’s advocate. If you need legal counseling regarding the eviction of a tenant, contact Atlas Law to schedule a consultation. We distinguish ourselves by practicing in every county in Florida, across multiple jurisdictions.

What Does A “Moratorium” On Evictions Actually Mean?

A moratorium is a delay or a suspension of law, action, or even debt. An example of a widely-seen one was the moratorium on evictions that was established in October of 2020. 

Whether you are a landlord or a renter, misunderstanding what one means has serious financial—and possibly legal—consequences. Let’s take a deeper look at this from a landlord’s perspective.

Misunderstanding A Headline

When information gets put out regarding a moratorium, read the entire article—read multiple articles. And if it is vital to your livelihood, ask an attorney about how it applies to you. 

When the moratorium was established (and was ultimately extended), there was a general misconception that people could not be evicted. Landlords also thought they didn’t have any recourse. 

But did they?

Although it was true that people who didn’t pay their rent or mortgage couldn’t be evicted, it extended beyond that. Tenants were still required to formally declare that they were unable to pay due to an issue related to COVID-19. 

In Florida, attorneys have still been able to file for evictions—and they could even receive final judgments. For landlords who were financially struggling, they contacted attorneys and began the eviction process long before the moratorium ended. The eviction moratorium—which was established on a nationwide basis—was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It was never intended to release people from their contractual obligations to pay rent. For people who had already obtained final judgments, they were able to evict those who were not covered by the CDC’s order. Furthermore, for those renters who did qualify for protection from eviction, that in and of itself did not prevent an eviction. 

Past-Due Rent

Another aspect of the eviction moratorium that was overlooked (or misinterpreted) was the issue surrounding the money owed for rent. This was likely a result of people incorrectly assuming that they were released from a financial obligation. 

Due to some unexpected and severe economic challenges, people thought they were being offered relief by not paying their rent. Again, this was not true, nor was it the intent of the moratorium. The debt incurred from the moratorium didn’t disappear, nor would be forgiven. 

In the past, when there was a moratorium, your debts could still be handed over to a collection agency. Your credit score (and your ability to get another apartment) could be impacted as well. 

Atlas Law

At Atlas Law, we are the landlord’s advocate. If you have legal issues or questions regarding your tenants, we can advise you on your options. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t have any recourse because you have rights. Contact Atlas Law today to schedule your consultation. We can also be reached at (813) 241-8269. 

How To Handle Bad Tenants

Though your bad tenants will likely (hopefully) be just a small portion of the people you rent to, they have the potential to take up a considerable amount of your time. When this happens, you devote too many minutes of your day trying to fix problems rather than growing your property management business. 

Common types of problems you are likely to encounter are people who destroy your property, who fail to pay their rent, or a combination of the two. This is when they violate their lease agreement, the document that outlined how much they would pay you in rent and how they would conduct themselves while living on your property. 

The quick response (but definitely not the quickest solution) is to move towards evicting them. Unfortunately, this is a timely process that incorporates lawyers, a legal process, and odds are, your renters will continue to violate their lease as you try to remove them from your property. Although eviction can still be inevitable, here are some steps to take before it gets there.

Prevent It Early 

Spend the time to develop a robust background screening process. This isn’t as complicated as it may sound. Try to focus on three things: employment, previous addresses, and credit scores. For the first two, verify that they are employed and try to talk to a previous landlord. Even though the former landlord has no reason to help you, they will not be able to hide their feelings for a tenant who didn’t pay rent or abused their property.

A credit check might cost upwards of $50, but it is an investment. It’s significantly cheaper than the cost of the eviction process. When you are meeting with the tenant, they will have to give their Social Security number and authorize you to run the credit check. And when you meet with them to show the property, ask questions and get a feel for who might be moving into your property.

Renters Who Won’t Pay

As much as it might upset you that they are not paying, don’t immediately assume that your tenant is doing so aggressively. If you are short on money because your tenants won’t pay, you are going to struggle financially due to no specific fault of your own.

Perhaps your tenant lost their job or is in the middle of a crisis. Trying to help them might go a long way for establishing a long-term professional relationship with them. To do this, consider putting them on a payment plan. A portion of your rent is better than none, and you will be establishing this plan for them to pay you the rent in full eventually. 

Another option is to see if they would consider having a roommate if the living space can accommodate it. They will get to pay less, and you will receive the entirety of your rent. 

Atlas Law 

At Atlas Law, we are equipped to cover eviction and real estate cases throughout the entire state of Florida. If you own property—or you’re a corporation that owns several properties—Atlas Law can be your single source for eviction proceedings. Contact us online to schedule a consultation.

2 (Very) Simple Ways Your Property Manager Can Market Your Properties

If you own rental properties, you may have chosen to hire a property manager—or you might be one yourself. The decision of whether to employ one is entirely built around your circumstances, your time, and your money. 

Regardless, the role of the property manager can extend beyond work orders, collecting rent, and managing your tenants. What if the position also included the responsibility to gain new tenants? For instance, if you own several properties, filling those with renters is a business need. It provides the revenue to pay for the property (and its manager). 

Basic supply and demand will prove that the more people you have interested in your property, the more you may be able to charge for rent. Here are some simple ways in which your property manager can help you market your property.

Referrals 

One of the best components of referrals is the cost: they are free. So if you are putting off marketing because you cannot afford it, then you are missing out on this very cost-effective strategy. 

This starts with creating a positive experience for your current tenants. If they do not enjoy renting from you, they are not going to refer you to their friends and family. Their experience may rely heavily on their interactions with the property manager—who is a direct reflection of the property owner.

Quality Tenants

Secondly, you want quality tenants. These are people who are respectful of your property, who pay on time, who contact the property manager for the things that correctly fall under his/her responsibilities. 

The property manager is in a position to see which tenants fit well into your business model. You should be investing in your property instead of continually charging tenants who are flagrantly mistreating their living space. This will demand time, energy, and money. Ultimately, you may have to pursue eviction and seek professional legal advice. 

Good tenants are more likely to refer you to other good tenants. Use your property manager as a source of information to understand who your best tenants are. Who pays on time? Who respects the other tenants? Who is polite? This last one can add to the reputation of your building. 

If your property manager can point out these tenants, invest in them. Maybe you choose not to raise their rent at the end of the year and tell them why. Or perhaps you just send them a card during the holidays and thank them for being a valued tenant. Ultimately, you are increasing your chances that your ideal tenant brings in more people similar to him or her.

Contact Atlas Law

If you or your property manager need a valued attorney to help you with evictions or other issues surrounding property management, contact Atlas Law today. We cover eviction and real estate cases in every jurisdiction of Florida. If you need support evicting tenants who are hurting your property or your business, then there is no one better to have in your corner than Atlas Law.  

Understanding Disclosure Disputes in Real Estate

When someone sells a home or other piece of real estate, they are legally obligated to inform the buyer of known problems. If they do not disclose problems, the buyer can file a disclosure dispute with the courts to seek damages. In general, the person filing the disclosure dispute will ask the courts to require the seller to pay for the damages caused by the issue that was not disclosed and pay to have the issue fixed. With this in mind, it is always smart for the seller to disclose every problem they are aware of. Whether you are buying or selling real estate, read on to understand more about disclosure disputes.

Common Examples of Issues Not Disclosed

Anyone who is selling real estate needs to reveal major issues with the property that could impact the buyer in the future. The following are some of the most common things that trigger disclosure disputes in real estate:

  • Water Infiltration – If a basement has water leaking in during heavy rains, this must be disclosed.
  • Termites – Termites can be very difficult to get rid of completely, and the damage they cause can be very expensive.
  • Mold Issues – If a home has mold behind the walls, it can be overlooked during an inspection. With some types of mold, it can also be cleaned off so that it is not visible, but it will grow back.
  • Radon – If the home has tested positive for Radon, it should be disclosed. It is recommended that Radon tests be performed before buying or selling a home.

What is Needed in a Disclosure Dispute?

When a disclosure dispute goes to court, the plaintiff (buyer of the home) will need to be able to show several things in order to win the case. First, they need to show that there is an existing defect. They also need to show that the defect was not disclosed at the time of the sale, and that the seller was aware of the defect at that time. Finally, it must be shown that the issue was not something that should have been discovered during a routine inspection of the property.

Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Whether buying or selling real estate, it is critical that you understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to dealing with problems with the property. The best way to do this is to work with an experienced attorney who can work with you to ensure everything is handled properly. Atlas Law can help you throughout the real estate transaction to protect your interests now, and in the future. Please contact us to discuss your needs today.

Four Tips for Thriving as a Property Manager

Managing rental properties is no easy task. At any given moment, you have a lot to juggle. Rental agreements. Marketing. Upkeep. Corresponding with tenants and potential tenants. The list could go on and on! 

At Atlas Law, we have a deep understanding of how much is on your plate. In today’s blog post, we’re sharing our four biggest tips for success. We hope these ideas will help you thrive in your role as a property manager!

  1. Prioritize maintenance and customer service. 

Number one on our list essential boils down to keeping your tenants happy. It is wise to be proactive about maintenance matters and not wait until something becomes an emergency to fix it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be glued to your phone and email, just that you need to have a reliable system in place for dealing with issues as they arise and for checking periodically that all appliances and other amenities are in tip top working order. 

  1. Know your portfolio of properties inside and out. 

Don’t miss out on opportunities to get the word out about your offerings by not being as familiar with them as you should. Know your amenities and the types of tenants they typically attract. Know the prices and what might make your property particularly attractive to any given potential renter. You never know when you may be presented with an unexpected opportunity to market.

  1. Build a trustworthy team. 

There will reach a point when you can no longer manage all your properties on your own. It’s important to understand when and how to delegate. When that time comes, screen employees carefully and make sure anyone you hire can share in your vision for customer service, growth, and responsibilities. 

  1. Retain knowledgeable counsel.

This goes hand-in-hand with #3. Make sure you leave the legal side of managing your business to a trained professional. It’s important to choose an attorney who has an extensive background in real estate law and therefore truly understands the challenges your business faces. 

Contact Atlas Law

If you are looking for an experienced real estate law firm, the Atlas Law team is here. We cover eviction and real estate cases across jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida. Are you ready to tackle your legal issues? Is it time to make moves to protect your business moving forward? We can help. Contact Atlas Law today!

When is It Legal to Raise the Rent?

As a landlord, there are going to be times when you need to raise your rental prices. Sometimes the increase is driven by market changes, while in other cases, maintenance costs and taxes have gone up, making it necessary to charge more when you want to keep the property in good shape and stay in business.

At Atlas Law, our goal is to help Florida landlords preserve the value of their property while maintaining good relationships with their best tenants. In this blog, we’ll answer the frequently asked question “When it is legal to raise the rent?” and show you how to avoid potential pitfalls when handling rent increases with tenants.

How often can Florida landlords raise rent? 

With residential tenancies, you can only raise the rent for fixed-term tenants once their lease expires. If they rent from you on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis, you can increase their rent at any time, as long as you give fair and reasonable notice, which is generally 15 days for monthly tenants and seven days for weekly.

If you’re a commercial landlord, your lease agreement may include a rent increase schedule, such as a yearly increase based on a percentage of the current rent. If the agreement is silent on the issue, a Florida rental law attorney can recommend the best way to manage your investment financially.

When can Florida landlords NOT raise rent?

This is an equally important question. In Florida, landlords are prohibited from raising rent as a discriminatory or retaliatory measure. For example, a landlord can’t impose an increase because a tenant has reported code violations or requested repairs, not can they raise rent based on characteristics like the following:

  • Sex or sexual orientation
  • Race, religion, color, ancestry or national origin
  • Age
  • Marital or parental status
  • Physical or mental handicaps (real or perceived)

The problem is that a landlord who imposes a rental increase in good faith may be accused of discrimination or retaliation by tenants who honestly believe it to be the case or who are trying to gain an advantage. If this happens to you, it is essential to seek legal advice to protect your rights and reputation as a landlord.

Additionally, if you are the owner of a manufactured home community governed by Chapter 723 of the Florida Statutes, you may only raise your rent based on limited circumstances, and only after providing your tenants with 90 days notice of the increase.  In the event that you are the owner of a mobile home park and wish to increase your rental rates, you should consult with a Florida attorney who has experience representing mobile home community owners.

Work with an Experienced Florida Landlord’s Rights Lawyer

Raising the rent is an important part of maintaining necessary cash flow for landlords. It can also be a contentious area where tenants are concerned. At Atlas Law, we will provide you with valid and accurate legal advice in all matters related to rent increases, including tenant objections. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call 813.241.8269.