6 Things to Know About Purchasing Property with “Sitting Tenants”

In Florida, purchasing a property that already houses tenants, known as a “tenanted property,” is a unique investment opportunity with its own set of rules and responsibilities. This situation arises when an investor or homeowner buys a property where lease agreements are already in place, meaning that the tenants have the right to continue living in the property under the terms of their existing leases. 

For the new property owner, this means stepping into the role of the landlord with obligations and rights that are governed by Florida’s specific landlord-tenant laws. Understanding the laws, including how lease agreements are transferred, handling security deposits, respecting tenant rights, and eviction, is crucial for anyone considering such an investment. This type of purchase can offer immediate rental income and save on the costs of finding new tenants, but it requires a thorough understanding of your legal responsibilities as a landlord. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Lease Agreements Carry Over: The existing lease agreements with tenants are binding upon the new owner. This means that all terms, including rent amount, deposit details, lease duration, and any other conditions agreed upon by the previous landlord and the tenants, remain in effect until the lease expires.
  2. Security Deposits: Florida law requires that any security deposits held by the previous owner must be transferred to the new owner. The new landlord is then responsible for holding these deposits according to Florida statutes, which include placing the deposit in a Florida banking institution, posting a surety bond for the amount of the deposit, or insuring the deposit with a Florida insurance company.
  3. Tenant Rights: Tenants in Florida have rights protected under state law, including the right to a habitable living environment, the right to privacy, and protection against retaliatory eviction. As the new property owner, you must respect these rights and follow proper legal procedures for any property access, maintenance, or eviction processes.
  4. Notice of Ownership Change: While not specifically mandated by Florida law, it’s considered good practice to notify tenants of the change in ownership. This notification should include information on where to send rent payments and who will manage the property moving forward, along with any relevant contact information.
  5. Eviction Rules: If you plan to make changes to the tenancy post-purchase, such as not renewing a lease or evicting a tenant for cause, you must adhere to Florida’s eviction laws. This includes providing proper notice as required by the lease and state law and following the judicial process for eviction if the tenant does not comply.
  6. Local Regulations: Some Florida municipalities have additional ordinances affecting rental properties, such as rental license requirements, inspections, or specific tenant protections. It’s important to familiarize yourself with any local regulations that apply to your newly acquired property.

Investing Carefully

Purchasing a property with sitting tenants in Florida can be a valuable investment, especially if the property generates steady rental income. However, it’s crucial to understand your responsibilities as a landlord under Florida law to ensure a smooth transition and maintain a positive relationship with your tenants. Consulting with a legal professional experienced in Florida real estate and landlord-tenant law can provide valuable guidance and help protect your investment.

At Atlas Law, we help property owners just like you through the ups and downs of owning investment property and landlord-tenant laws. We’re passionate about ensuring your rights and investments are protected. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 813.241.8269 and make sure your tenanted property venture is legally sound and financially rewarding.

The Best Way to Deal with Abandoned Mobile Homes


In the mobile home park industry, one of the most challenging aspects for owners is handling abandoned mobile homes. The presence of these unoccupied and neglected units not only mars the visual appeal and orderly environment of the park but also ushers in a multitude of legal obligations for the owners.

Chapter 715 of the Florida Statutes outlines specific procedures for managing such properties. For park owners, meticulous compliance with these statutory guidelines is not just a matter of legal formality; it is an essential practice to safeguard themselves from potential legal entanglements and to maintain the integrity and operational smoothness of their mobile home parks.

Understanding the Legal Framework for Abandoned Mobile Homes

Florida law defines an abandoned mobile home as one left unoccupied by a tenant who has no intention of returning, leaving personal property behind. In these cases, park owners must follow legal steps to manage these homes appropriately. These steps are designed to protect the rights of tenants and park owners and to ensure the orderly management of the park.

Notification Process for Abandoned Mobile Homes

The initial step in this process involves notifying the tenant or any potential owner of the abandoned property. This notification must be in writing and sent via first-class mail to the tenant’s last known address. It should inform the recipient where the property is being stored, the costs for storage, how the property can be claimed, and a deadline for claiming the property (at least 10-15 days). The notice must also detail how the property will be disposed of if it remains unclaimed.

Auctioning High-Value Properties

If unclaimed and valued over $500.00, park owners can auction these properties. This auction requires public notice in a local newspaper, including the former tenant’s name, a description of the property, and the time and place of the sale. Park owners can bid in these auctions. The proceeds, after deducting costs for storage, advertising, and sale, can be claimed by the tenant or property owner within a specified period before being deposited into the county registry.

Dealing with Low-Value Properties

For properties worth less than $500.00, park owners have more discretion. They can retain or dispose of these properties as they see fit, provided they have made reasonable efforts to return them to the tenant.  Please note that only in very rare circumstances will a Court agree that a manufactured home is worth less than $500.00.  Valuation at less than $500.00 only occurs where there has been material damage to the unit, such as a fire or significant hurricane damage.  

Exceptions to Standard Procedures

There are two exceptions under Florida law. Firstly, if the lease agreement includes a specific clause as per Florida Statute §83.67, the landlord is not required to provide notice or storage for the tenant’s personal property after surrender, abandonment, or recovery of possession. Secondly, under Florida Statute §83.62, after the sheriff executes a writ of possession, the landlord can move the tenant’s property to the property line. However, this may involve costs and challenges, particularly in multifamily or restricted communities.  Moreover, these statutes only govern Chapter 83 tenancies where the tenant does NOT own the mobile home.  In most circumstances facing our mobile home community owners, the tenant owns the mobile home and Chapter 723 applies – thereby negating the provisions of Chapter 83 cited above.  

Seeking Professional Guidance

Managing abandoned mobile homes in Florida requires a careful balance between legal obligations and practical considerations. Park owners must diligently adhere to statutory procedures to handle these properties lawfully and efficiently while minimizing liability risks. Understanding and following these laws are crucial for the successful management of a mobile home park.

For mobile home park owners grappling with the complexities of managing abandoned properties, professional legal advice is crucial. Atlas Law offers experienced counsel to ensure compliance with Florida law and to protect the interests of your mobile home park. Schedule a consultation with us to navigate these legal challenges effectively.

Florida Landlords- Your Duty to Repair Explained

When you rent out an apartment, home, or other residential accommodation, you have certain responsibilities as a landlord. Foremost among them is the obligation to keep the unit in good condition. In this blog, we’ll review your responsibility when it comes to repairs and go over situations when the cost can come out of your tenant’s security deposit.

Landlord’s Duty to Repair in Florida

During the tenancy, you must maintain the structural elements of the unit or building, including the roof, floors, steps, windows, doors, and exterior walls. Your other maintenance responsibilities include: 

  • Keeping the heating and plumbing in good shape
  • Exterminating vermin and insects
  • Keeping common areas in a safe and clean condition
  • Maintaining working smoke detection devices
  • Repairing any damage to screens annually

If a tenant requests repairs, you have up to seven (7) days to complete them, provided that request involves an issue that violates Florida’s warranty of habitability. While it is typically your responsibility to cover the repair costs, under certain circumstances you may be able to deduct it from the tenant’s security deposit. 

Using the Security Deposit for Repair Costs

While you cannot normally deduct repair costs related to ordinary wear and tear, one of the purposes of a security deposit is to cushion you financially against any property damage that could result from tenant negligence or carelessness. Examples include:

  • Smashed or broken bathroom or kitchen fixtures
  • Floors or carpets damaged by pet urine
  • Doors broken off the hinges
  • Broken windows
  • Cracked or broken tiles
  • Deeply scratched hardwood floors

If your tenant causes this type of damage, you are legally permitted to deduct reasonable repair costs from their security deposit. 

What if the Tenant Objects to Using Their Security Deposit?

Your tenant may object to you using the security deposit to cover damages that they caused, either directly or indirectly. If the situation looks like it may escalate or you aren’t sure if you can deduct for certain damages, your best option is to consult with the Florida landlords’ rights attorney who can explain how state law applies to your situation.

Do You Need to Speak With a Florida Property Law Attorney?

If you are a Florida landlord with questions about your obligation to cover repair costs, let the landlord-tenant lawyers at Atlas Law help. The right advice from an attorney can ensure that any repair deductions are legally valid and, if the situation does escalate, we will protect your rights at any subsequent hearings or legal actions. To schedule a consultation today, call 813.241.8269.

Four Tips Maximizing Property Value Before a Sale

Whether you’re planning to sell commercial or residential real estate, it is worth your while to put some work into increasing its value before you put it on the market. Sometimes a small investment in your property can have a big payoff in the sale, and inexpensive or even free fixes that just take a little effort can do a lot for your bottom line as well. In today’s blog post, we’re sharing our tips for increasing your property’s value before you put it on the market.

  1. A fresh coat of paint.

New paint can go a long way towards updating a space. Opt for neutrals like light gray. Even if there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about the current paint job, it can be helpful to redo it to cover any scuffs or fading caused by time. Plus, the smell of fresh paint tells your potential buyers that you’ve been making improvements from the moment they walk through the door. 

That being said, a poorly done paint job — one that leads to smudging on the ceiling, for instance — is an instant detractor. If you’re not sure of your painting abilities, it will be worth the expense to hire professional painters. 

  1. Curb appeal. 

Small improvements can make a huge difference when it comes to curb appeal. A new mailbox is a great, inexpensive addition to a residence. Landscaping can be a major improvement for commercial or residential properties. Also consider new or improved siding, walkways, and outdoor living space like patios and decks.

  1. Fixtures.

If you have outdated fixtures like doorknobs, cabinet handles, or even lighting fixtures, it is wise to replace them with something more modern, while also keeping it neutral. These kinds of details will make an especially big difference if your property is being shown to potential buyers unfurnished.

  1. Cleanliness.

This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people put a property on the market without cleaning up first, even if they’ve just evicted a tenant. You aren’t doing yourself any favors when you let potential buyers see a property that isn’t squeaky clean. If you don’t feel up to taking the time and energy to clean up yourself, hire professionals. It’s definitely worth it. 

Contact Atlas Law for Your Florida Real Estate Needs

Our team represents property owners in real estate transactions and evictions. We work with clients throughout the state of Florida. No matter what region of the state you’re in, we have the knowledge and experience to help you. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, contact us today!

Buyers: 4 Things You Should Do During the Due Diligence Period When Buying a Home

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the phrase “due diligence” as “the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property.” When it comes to real estate and buying or selling a home, you will find that there is a due diligence period (usually of 15 days in Florida contracts, but this can be negotiated) during which any investigations that could impact decision-making on the part of the buyer must be carried out. 

You’ll often hear people reminding you to “Do your due diligence,” but what does that mean exactly? How do you go about doing your due diligence? What are the steps? Read below to discover the Atlas Law team’s recommendations for things to take care of during your due diligence period.

1. If you haven’t already, get to know the market.

Some people fall in love with the first house they see and spring for it without seeing what else is out there. If you aren’t already familiar with the market, you should look at some other comparable houses in the area at this time to make sure that the home you are buying is fairly priced (and to make sure it’s really what you want).

2. Calculate prices of potential repairs.

You’ve probably already had the home inspected by this point. If you haven’t already, now is the time to go over the inspector’s notes in detail. Then, you should get down to the nitty gritty details of what any necessary repairs are going to cost you. This may require calling a contractor for an estimate or even taking a trip to the hardware store to look at the costs of materials.

3. Look into insurance options.

Some buyers don’t look into insurance options until it is too late. They find out their home can’t be insured because, for example, it’s in a hurricane-prone area, but by the time they learn this it is too late for them to back out of the purchase. Don’t let this happen to you. Talk to some insurance companies and get some bids during the due diligence period.

4. Review Homeowners Association documents.

Some homeowners associations are better than others and it can be a big mistake to buy into the wrong one. Take some time to review the Homeowners Association documents so that you will be sure you know what you are getting into.

If you are buying or selling real estate in Florida, contact Atlas Law today. Our firm is unique in that we handle cases across jurisdictions through the state of Florida. We are extremely experienced and committed to helping our clients make the best real estate decisions possible. We can’t wait to chat with you about how we can help you!

4 Reasons to Consider Investing in Real Estate

Investing means putting your assets to work so that you can increase your net value, enjoy additional income, have more funds when you retire, or save up for a child’s college tuition. In fact, once you have enough assets, investing is the only logical way of taking care of your growing wealth. However, when making a decision to invest, people usually face a dilemma: “What should I invest in?”

The stock market is likely one of the answers that most readily come to mind. Indeed, investing in stock can yield great returns – but it doesn’t come without its risk. If you are looking for a reasonable alternative to investing in stock – one that would offer comparable or better returns but without the volatility – the real estate market might be a perfect option for you. In this blog, we will consider 4 reasons to consider investing in real estate.

High Tangible Asset Value

The value of some assets will decrease over time. This can be true both of a stock – the market value of a company can drop rapidly and the company’s shares will plummet – but also of concrete things and items like, for example, cars. A house or land, on the other hand, will always have value. In addition, it is likely that a real estate property will steadily gain its value over time. And even though special circumstances or trends on the market can make the value of these assets drop as well, you can protect yourself from heavy losses with homeowner’s insurance.

Better Returns Than the Stock Market

It may seem counterintuitive to think that the real estate market provides better investment returns than the stock market, but this is what the data tells us. Since 2000, the annual returns on investment in the stock market averaged 5.43%, whereas real estate investment earned 10.71% annually. The reasons for higher returns from the real estate market investments are both appreciation (or the rise in value – currently, it averages 3% to 4% annually) and the income generated from renting out the property.

Tax Benefits

There are numerous tax advantages that come with owning a real estate property, especially if you own a rental property. In such case, you can deduct, for example, the interest portion of the payment towards the loan you took to buy the property. You can also deduct operating expenses, insurance, and depreciation. In fact, rental property owners are allowed to take tax deductions for any legitimate cost related to running a rental property.

Rental Yield

Speaking of rental property, the rental yield – or in other words the annual rental income – is yet another financial advantage you gain when you own a real estate property that you decide to rent. Renting out a property is a great way of earning passive income – money that you earn without an active involvement.

Investing in Rental Property? Contact a Landlord’s Advocate

At Atlas Law, you will find a host of experienced, dedicated attorneys who can help you with all the aspects of property management, investment protection, and more. We can also provide advice related to difficult landlord-tenant relationships and represent you in litigation. Contact us today to experience the comprehensive legal care and assistance we offer.

6 Tips for Cost-Effective Property Management

Property can be a great investment and return vehicle, but managing and maintaining the property can also eat up a lot of the profit margin. This does not have to be the case, however, if you know where to look and what to change.

1) Use your utilities wisely. Of course, as a landlord, you are required to provide your tenants with functioning utilities that are consistent and reliable. Within that obligation, however, you can still implement some cost-saving measures such as switching out incandescent lights with LEDs that use less energy and last longer. Consider putting outdoor lights on timers so that they only come on when needed or during dark hours. Look into installing insulation to prevent heat and cold from escaping or getting in, depending on the season. Also, keep an eye on your bills and make sure you are actually using all that you are being charged for.

2) Outsource when possible. Outsourcing is a fancy way of saying you’re hiring someone else to handle the problem. While this measure involves spending money, the savings in the long run may very well justify the move. For example, outsourcing tenant calls or service complaints, or billing to a property management company can free up your time for other duties or problems that need attention.

3) Maximize your taxes. A tax specialist may be a very wise investment with a large return in tax savings. Even just having a review of your property tax situation can mean a reduction in your overall tax burden.

4) Give your tenants incentive to stay. Changes in tenants are a giant hassle not only in costs associated with preparing the apartment for the next tenant, but in screening and finding new tenants. Then, there is the lost income if the apartment remains unrented for more than a month. If possible, have tenants sign onto extended leases or at least give them incentives to stay longer as the less turnover there is, the less cost there will be for you.

5) Scrutinize your bills and try to renegotiate if possible. Always be aware of what services or goods associated with your properties you are paying for. If you feel that a service or commodity has become overpriced, you may have some leverage with the vendor to negotiate a new and better rate. Most vendors will be happy to negotiate rather than lose a customer altogether.

6) Consider long-term cost-saving investments. Going green is great for the environment, but if done right, it can also mean substantial long-term savings for you as well. Solar panels, solar-powered hot water heaters, and solar-powered lights can all help to reduce electricity costs. You may even be able to get tax rebates for using solar power.

One of the easiest and least stressful methods of cost saving is to have a qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable attorney assisting you in the management of your property. Attorney Brian Chase is uniquely suited to provide these services to landlords and property managers all over Florida. Contact us today to get started.    

6 Secrets to Being a Successful Property Manager

Property managers have a lot on their plate at any given time. There are the rental agreements to keep track of, the properties to market, the apartments to service, and the tenants to keep happy. And, that’s just in the morning. It is possible, however, to be a successful property manager with a few good tips.

1) Know what you’ve got. Understand and know your portfolio of properties inside and out. This means knowing both what they rent for but also the type of family or renter for whom they should be marketed. A high rise apartment in the city may not appeal to the family with small children just like the suburban apartment may not appeal to the Millennial. Also know the areas in which you have properties and what elements of those areas might be attractive for particular renters. Maybe one unit is near a commuter train station or another is in the heart of the arts district.

2) Provide great service. Nothing is more frustrating for a tenant with an emergency on a weekend who gets no response from their property manager. This does not mean that you need to be hooked to a phone 24/7, but it does mean that you need to have processes in place to ensure that issues are handled promptly and that residents are assured that you have heard their complaint and are working to fix it. Great service should not end once the tenant moves in. It should last for the entire relationship.

3) Use social media. Let social media work for you to help you find tenants, but also to help you maintain your good reputation. Keep tabs on the reviews of your business on social media and if you see problem areas, address them. You should also become familiar with SEO optimization, keywords, and other methods of getting your properties in front of eyes.

4) Maintain your properties. This will require investment on your part to maintain and in some cases, upgrade your properties. The flip side of this investment, however, is that it usually can command a higher rental price. Tenants want to live in safe, habitable places that have the usual modern conveniences and fit their lifestyle. If your properties are not meeting that requirement, it might be time to consider some investments. Similarly, it is always important to maintain properties up to the relevant code for your area. Failing to do so can create a huge liability later down the road.

5) Find and hire good people. Depending upon the number of properties that you have, you may not be able to wear all hats at the same time. If this is the case and you need to find additional help, screen very carefully for employees who share your vision of great customer service and who are ready to work with you. Often times, the person you hire may be the tenant’s only point of contact with your organization and you want it to be as positive as possible.

6) Retain good counsel. There are going to be issues that arise that are complex or can turn into potential liabilities that will require the advice and help of an attorney. It is inevitable and you should be prepared for it by retaining an attorney who understand the needs and issues facing property managers. It is also critical to have an attorney on your team to advise you of changes in regulations, state and federal laws, as well as tax code implications and similar legal issues.

Brian Chase has extensive experience representing and advising property managers through the various regulatory and liability issues that arise. He is ready to join your team and help make it as successful as possible. Contact him today to get started.