Best Practices for Maximizing ROI for Multi-Family Properties

Investing in multi-family properties is a proven strategy to generate significant returns. However, achieving optimal profitability requires more than just financial acumen. To achieve the highest possible return on investment (ROI), investors need to find innovative ways to utilize legal strategies that streamline operations, reduce risks, and enhance tenant relations.

Optimizing Lease Agreements

The lease agreement is the fundamental legal framework that defines the relationship between the landlord and the tenants. An effectively drafted lease covers all aspects crucial to property management, ensuring clarity and compliance. Key elements to include in a lease are:

  • Clear rental terms: Specify exact payment amounts, due dates, and penalties for late payments to prevent misunderstandings that could impact cash flow.
  • Usage policies: Clearly outline what is permissible on the property regarding pets, subletting, and other use parameters to prevent misuse and mitigate potential damages.
  • Maintenance responsibilities: Define who is responsible for both routine and emergency repairs. This clarity can help avoid disputes and unforeseen expenditures.
  • Lease duration and renewal: Establish lease terms, renewal conditions, and termination processes that help manage tenant turnover effectively.

Ensuring your lease agreements are detailed and tailored to your property’s needs will significantly reduce future disputes and streamline management. Airtight lease agreements enhance the property’s profitability and provide a solid foundation for your landlord-tenant relationship, fostering a positive and harmonious living environment.

Minimizing Legal Risks Through Effective Tenant Screening

It’s a given that proper tenant screening is critical for reducing the risks inherent in property management. A comprehensive screening process ensures that only reliable and responsible tenants occupy your property. Essential steps in an effective tenant screening include:

  • Credit checks: Evaluate a potential tenant’s financial behavior and stability.
  • Background checks: Assess for any criminal history and previous evictions, which might indicate potential risks.
  • Employment verification: Confirm that the tenant has a stable job and sufficient income to afford the rent.
  • References: Contact prior landlords to discuss the tenant’s past lease adherence and conduct.

Implementing a rigorous tenant screening process is not just a formality; it’s a crucial step in risk reduction. It significantly reduces the chances of rent defaults and evictions, maintains property value, and ensures a harmonious living environment for all tenants. In other words, it’s a key strategy for maximizing your property’s profitability.

Strategies to Reduce Vacancies and Enhance Tenant Retention

Maintaining low vacancy rates and minimizing tenant turnover are essential for sustaining profitability. One of the best strategies is to keep the property occupied by preferred tenants for as long as possible. Offer benefits for tenants agreeing to longer lease terms, stabilizing occupancy rates. Also, lease renewal policies should be developed in a way that incentivize tenants to renew, decreasing turnover and the costs linked to acquiring new tenants.

First and foremost, regular maintenance and effective dispute resolution are vital to accomplishing this. Scheduled upkeep prevents major repairs and keeps tenants satisfied, while clear procedures for resolving disputes minimize potential legal costs and maintain a positive community environment.

Staying Compliant with Regulations

Staying informed of and compliant with all relevant housing regulations, zoning laws, environmental standards, and safety codes is a legal requirement and a crucial aspect of property management. Regular legal consultations help ensure that property management practices adhere to current laws, which in turn protects against fines and legal issues that might negatively impact ROI. This commitment to compliance reassures landlords and instills confidence in their investment strategy.

If you are a multi-family property owner seeking to optimize your investment, Atlas Law can provide the necessary legal guidance and support. Contact us at 813.241.8269 today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you enhance your property’s profitability.

Subleasing and Assignment as Tools for Commercial Real Estate Success

Commercial real estate markets are constantly fluctuating. Property owners need to get creative in order to keep their tenants happy and their spaces leased. Considering the legal implications of subleasing and assignment in commercial leases is more than a legal necessity—it’s about fostering enduring business relationships and ensuring the stability and growth of enterprises. These options are not merely contractual mechanisms but lifelines that can significantly impact the journey of a business, particularly in times of change or uncertainty. They offer a pathway for tenants to adapt to evolving market demands, financial shifts, or strategic repositioning, ensuring they can maintain their operations and commitments without compromising on their lease agreements.

For landlords, the process goes beyond mere transactional interactions; it’s about building trust and sustaining a viable tenant base, which is crucial for the long-term success of their real estate investments. Understanding and facilitating subleasing and assignment processes demonstrate a commitment to the mutual success of both landlords and tenants. It is essential in creating a flexible, responsive real estate environment where businesses can thrive even in the face of unforeseen challenges.

Understanding Subleasing and Assignment

Subleasing happens when a tenant, known as the sublessor, rents out the leased property to another party, called the sublessee. The original lease stays active, and the sublessor remains responsible for its obligations. Assignment occurs when the tenant, or assignor, transfers all lease interests to another party, the assignee, effectively stepping out of the lease agreement and its responsibilities.

These options offer tenants needed adaptability, especially in changing business climates, but they must be managed carefully to protect the interests of all parties, including the landlord. Both processes typically require the landlord’s consent, as outlined in the lease agreement, ensuring that new tenants meet the landlord’s standards and that the lease terms continue to be upheld.

Legal Considerations and Processes

Lease agreements usually detail the conditions under which subleasing or assignment can occur, often necessitating landlord approval. Landlords must assess the incoming tenant’s financial reliability and business standing to ensure they can fulfill the lease’s terms. The original tenant may still hold certain responsibilities, particularly in subleasing arrangements, including ongoing rent payments and property care.

Landlords need to consider how these arrangements affect property value and marketability, ensuring the new tenant complements the property’s existing tenant mix. Changes made by sublessees or assignees to the property must adhere to the original lease terms and relevant legal standards.

To manage subleasing and assignment effectively, landlords should establish clear policies within their lease documents, conduct thorough due diligence on potential new tenants, and amend leases as necessary to reflect new arrangements. This proactive approach helps maintain property value, ensures legal compliance, and supports positive landlord-tenant relationships.

Subleasing and assignment are integral parts of commercial leasing, requiring careful legal and procedural management. Landlords and tenants need to understand their rights and obligations to ensure these arrangements benefit all parties and support the ongoing success of their property management efforts. If you require guidance or assistance with commercial lease subleasing or assignment, Atlas Law is here to help. Schedule a consultation with us today to ensure your lease arrangements are managed effectively and in compliance with legal requirements.

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.

Why Real Estate Investors Should “Marry the House, Date the Rate”

For Florida landlords keen on expanding their real estate portfolios, timing the market can be a particular challenge. In a perfect scenario, low interest rates would simplify this decision-making process. However, we live in reality where interest rates fluctuate and make investment decisions more challenging.

This brings us to a pivotal question for investors: Is it wise to purchase rental properties when interest rates are this high? The answer largely hinges on your long-term objectives. Are you committed to being a landlord (or investor that hires a third-party management company) for the foreseeable future? Will these properties be part of your portfolio over an extended period?

Your responses to these questions will guide whether the adage “Marry the House, Date the Rate” resonates with your investment strategy.

Marry the House, Date the Rate

This phrase, a staple in real estate circles, defines a strategy of long-term commitment to a property while approaching the interest rates with the intention of refinancing once rates drop. This saying pops up much more frequently in times of heightened rates, as we currently experience due to various economic factors, including the Federal Reserve’s efforts to manage inflation.

The philosophy underpinning this saying is straightforward: acquire a property with an eye for long-term ownership, while staying open to refinancing options when rates become more advantageous. If you are buying and flipping homes in Florida then this does not apply (but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy right now as those decisions come down more to your own personal financial situation).

Applying This Principle to Investing

For those investing in Florida’s rental market, embracing this mindset is particularly prudent if long-term ownership aligns with your goals. Consider the attributes of your potential investment: Is it a sought-after property that promises consistent rental occupancy? Does it sit in a neighborhood that perennially attracts tenants?

If your investment ticks these boxes, then committing to it, despite high interest rates, can be a sound decision. The rationale is simple – the rental income should comfortably offset the interest payments. Over time, this strategy becomes increasingly beneficial as you potentially refinance at lower rates while maintaining a steady rental income.

When interest rates are high, asking prices go down. For investors, this creates opportunities to acquire properties that otherwise would be unavailable to you on the market.

Protecting Your Florida Real Estate Investments

At Atlas Law, our focus is to support Florida landlords who play a vital role in providing rental housing to our communities. Making informed investment decisions is crucial, and our role is to assist you in safeguarding these investments. For guidance in navigating and securing your real estate investments in Florida, contact Atlas Law to get started.

How Does Florida Law Define “Wear and Tear”?

The handling of security deposits in Florida is one of the most contentious issues in between landlords and tenants. It’s a topic we’ve discussed extensively recently to help clarify some key elements for Florida landlords.

It is reasonable for tenants to expect a timely return of their security deposit, but landlords also have a business to run and need to protect their assets, i.e., their rental properties. This is where security deposits come into play. Landlords are not allowed to charge for what is considered “normal wear and tear” on a property, but the definition of wear and tear is a highly debated topic in the real estate investment community.

What IS Considered Normal Wear and Tear

It’s important to understand that properties age and nothing remains new, clean, or perfect forever. Florida law accounts for this by ensuring that tenants are not held responsible for the normal aging of a property and its contents.

But, what exactly is considered “normal aging?” This includes any damage or deterioration that would be expected to happen over the course of time and not through any negligence or action by a tenant. That includes changes such as:

  • Carpet discoloration and flattening
  • Wall paint chipping or discoloring
  • Normal amounts of grease buildup on an oven
  • Moderate scratches on the floor
  • Minor dust or dirt on the property
  • Loose door and cabinet hinges
  • Moderate leaking from plumbing

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it should give you an idea of the types of things you can or can’t charge for. Nickel and diming a tenant may not be the best course of action, but you need to protect yourself from anything that extends beyond what most people would consider normal.

What ISN’T Considered Normal Wear and Tear

Now, there are many cases where damage goes far beyond any broad definition of normal wear and tear. Tenants need to be held financially responsible, and, in rare cases, criminally responsible.

Negligence is a key factor in determining whether damages are the tenant’s responsibility. Small bumps and bruises are expected during tenancy, but certain damages require repairs that can be charged against the security deposit. This includes:

  • Broken windows
  • Appliances damaged due to misuse
  • Discoloration of walls and carpets due to smoking in non-smoking properties
  • Large chips in wall paint or corners
  • Missing fixtures like ceiling fans or shower rods

Again, not an exhaustive list. It is important to note that any claims against a tenant’s security deposit in Florida must be itemized. This ensures that the tenant pays for actual repairs and not additional costs unrelated to the repairs.

Handle Security Deposits with Confidence

Handling security deposits appropriately is crucial to avoid costly legal disputes that put your Florida real estate investments at risk. No landlord wants to end up in court and potentially have to pay the tenant’s legal fees for attempting to deduct an excessive amount from a security deposit.

To confidently secure, handle, and deduct from a Florida tenant’s security deposit, it is best to seek legal consultation. Contact Atlas Law, your trusted landlord advocate in Florida, to ensure you are well-informed and compliant with the relevant security deposit regulations.

When Florida Landlords Are Permitted to Keep a Tenant’s Security Deposit

Security deposits are essential for landlords. They serve as a safety net, ensuring that your properties are protected in case a tenant vacates but leaves a mess, significant damage, or violates the terms of the lease.

You need to be able to cover the costly repairs or recover from damages caused by difficult tenants. We are delving into Florida’s security deposit laws to ensure that landlords are well-prepared for when they can rightfully keep a portion or all of a tenant’s security deposit.

What You Can Charge for a Security Deposit

In Florida, the law is quite landlord-friendly when it comes to setting the amount for a security deposit. Unlike some other states, Florida law does not place any limitations on the security deposit a landlord may charge tenants.

Generally, this deposit is not more than one or two months’ rent. While this offers flexibility, it’s important for landlords to remain competitive with similar properties and landlords when determining deposits to prevent potential tenants from going elsewhere.

Landlords can charge additional deposits for pets, with one notable exception: if the tenant has a genuine service animal then a pet deposit (or monthly pet fee) cannot be charged. The only exemption applies if you qualify for an exception from the Fair Housing Act.

Where Landlords Must Store the Security Deposit

Within 30 days of receiving the deposit, a landlord must decide where it will be held and inform the tenant. There are three options available:

  • An interest-bearing bank account
  • A non-interest-bearing bank account
  • A security or surety bond

Importantly, the security deposit funds must not be commingled with any other personal or business funds. If interest is earned on the deposit during the tenancy, the landlord must pay out either 5% simple interest per year or 75% of the interest generated. This payment is made at the end of the tenancy and not before.

Timelines for Returning or Deducting from a Security Deposit

Landlords are also required to return the full or deducted security deposit in a timely manner. After the tenant vacates and the lease expires, landlords have 15 days to return the deposit.

If deductions are made, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant within 30 days. This notice should explain the deductions and associated amounts for each.

If the tenant disagrees then they have the option to file a lawsuit. It’s important to note that if this lawsuit is unsuccessful, the tenant becomes responsible for covering the landlord’s legal expenses. Conversely, if the lawsuit succeeds, the landlord must pay the tenant’s legal fees.

Allowable Security Deposit Deductions

Florida law outlines specific situations in which landlords are permitted to deduct from a tenant’s security deposit. Deductions can be made for:

  • Unpaid rent
  • The cost of repairing damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear
  • Fees that are explicitly outlined in the rental agreement (such as those for early termination or property misuse)
  • The cost of any damages caused by breaches of the lease

It’s essential for landlords to keep detailed records and documentation to substantiate any deductions made.

Florida’s security deposit laws are crucial for landlords to protect their interests while staying in compliance with the law. If you need assistance crafting lease terms that pertain to security deposits or require legal support when defending deductions from a security deposit, don’t hesitate to contact Atlas Law for a Florida landlord’s advocate.

When Can Landlords Raise Rent on Florida Tenants?

Real estate is thriving in Florida. People want to live in the Sunshine State. You know this, I know this, and your renters know this. So, it shouldn’t be a shock for tenants when rental prices go up on Florida properties.

As a landlord, you need to be able to cover the rising costs and make a living through those rental rates. However, understanding the legal framework for raising rent on tenants is crucial to maintaining a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship and avoiding legal issues.

Let’s explore the circumstances that allow you to raise rent on current tenants.

Lease Agreement Provisions

The foundation for any rent increase in Florida begins with the lease agreement itself. We encourage landlords to include clear and specific language regarding rent adjustments in the lease agreement.

A properly drafted rent increase clause in your lease provides an agreed-upon framework for raising the rate. Generally, it should be with reasonable notice and at a reasonable rate. As a reminder, even if your rental agreements state otherwise, new “Tenant Bill of Rights” measures that were attempted by Florida municipalities required at least 60 days’ notice to raise rent by more than 5%.  While these “Tenant Bill of RIghts” measures were ultimately defeated by Florida legislation, they do provide a framework for “reasonable” notices and “reasonable” rate increases that tenants will likely point to in the future. 

Lease agreements allow you to be more proactive and clear in your intention before raising rates.

Statutory Limitations

Florida law does not place restrictions on how much landlords can increase rent unless specified in the lease agreement. This allows landlords to make adjustments in line with market trends and inflation, ensuring that rental properties remain viable investments.

Property Improvements and Upgrades

Is a tenant asking you to make significant improvements to the property? These upgrades and additional maintenance will be costly, especially with inflation impacting the supply chain.

In this situation, the additional improvements likely extend beyond the terms of your lease agreement and provide you an opportunity, with notice, to make the improvements contingent upon a higher rental cost.

Obviously, if the upgrades or maintenance are required for the safety of your tenants then this is not an avenue to raise rent. However, if they are superficial or subjective changes then consider negotiating with your renter to find the right price.

Changes in Utility Costs

If utilities are included, it’s important to include language in the lease about who will be responsible for excessive utility increases. Your rental agreement should cover circumstances both where the renter is not being reasonable in the way they use utilities in the home and in circumstances where the utility companies significantly increase costs.

You have a right to pass some or all of the utility costs onto the renter with proper notice.

Work with a Florida Landlord’s Advocate

Raising rent on Florida tenants is a process that must be approached with care and adherence to the law. By understanding the specific circumstances in which rent increases are permitted, landlords can protect their investments while maintaining positive landlord-tenant relationships.

At Atlas Law, we are A Landlord’s Advocate” and remain dedicated to protecting the rights of Florida landlords to make a living on the investments they’ve made. Contact our team if you’re having an issue with a tenant after raising rent or are concerned about an upcoming rental increase notice.

What Happens if a Tenant Lies on Their Rental Application?

As a landlord or property manager, finding tenants to fill vacancies is imperative even if challenging. You want the right people to utilize your properties with respect and reliability. Problem tenants create a risk to your business and livelihood.

We recently went over the type of information you should gather to screen potential tenants and the steps you need to take to protect your business. But, what happens when you’ve put the proper parameters in place and find out later your tenant lied to you on their tenant application?

What Tenants Can Lie About

The truth is there is one key element to rental applications that tenants are legally permitted to lie about: their pets. You have every right as a Florida landlord to institute a strict no-pet policy on your properties, but barring an exception, you are not permitted to restrict tenants who have legitimately registered emotional support animals (ESA) or other service animals.

People with physical, emotional, or mental disabilities are not required to disclose the existence of these pets at the time of their application. This is to ensure that potential landlords or property managers do not discriminate against them, even if it’s done so unintentionally. Your only option in this situation is to request a formal letter or proof that the animal is legally registered or necessary (this letter does not have to disclose the specific disability as this information is protected by HIPAA).

When a Tenant Lies About Income, Employment Status, or Criminal History

Beyond this, someone lying on a rental application is exposing themselves to significant liability. Many landlords have minimum income requirements to protect their business and if someone lies about their current employment status or income then it puts future rent payments in limbo.

Lying about criminal history is an entirely other complication. You don’t want people who have a layered history of violent behavior putting other tenants and neighbors at risk. It’s likely a background check will expose these lies before a tenant ever gets in, but if by chance you don’t run a background check and the tenant is found to have lied about their history you have options.

Florida landlords are empowered to evict anyone who is found to have lied on their application. Not only this but there may be legal repercussions – especially if the tenant was required to sign a form indicating that the information was an accurate representation of their circumstances at the risk of a penalty of perjury.

Consult with a Florida Tenant-Landlord Attorney

At Atlas Law, we advocate for Florida landlords and their rights. We are equipped to assist landlords when they discover a tenant lied on their application. It’s important to consult with an attorney before evicting someone to ensure you aren’t violating any laws and have legal support for your actions.

Contact our team should you ever be put in this situation.

4 Terms You Need to Add to Your Rental Agreements Today

As a landlord, you know how important contracts are. Rental agreements provide a legally binding contract between you (or your property management company) and the tenant(s) occupying your property. A landlord without sound contracts is bound to lose out on income meant to provide for their family.

Every rental agreement should include the basics like names, lease term, rental costs, notice requirements for vacating the property, etc., but there are some lesser-used terms that more landlords should consider to protect their tenants and their income.

Working with an attorney to add the following terms to your rental contracts could be vital for the future of your investments.

  1. Subleasing Clauses

Do you want your tenants to be able to sublease if they can’t complete their rental contract? Sometimes tenants need to move before their lease is up. This often puts landlords in a tough position to decide whether or not to release a tenant from the terms they agreed to. Doing so regularly means future tenants may have the legal right to be released from a lease even if you don’t agree.

Subleasing gives tenants the opportunity to find another individual or individuals to fulfill their rental obligations and continue on as tenants. If you do not want this, then it should be specified in the contract. Florida law allows subleasing unless the landlord has strictly forbidden it.

At the very least, your lease should include a condition that requires landlord approval before subleasing the space.

  1. Guest Clauses

You agreed to let two people rent out your condo, but suddenly they’ve got two other guests staying long-term. They’re adding wear and tear to the property and creating additional liability for you as the landlord.

Guest clauses provide specific and clear restrictions and rules on guests entering and staying on your properties. It’s reasonable to limit guests to short stints (anywhere from a few days to two weeks) and require additional payment if any guests stay longer than a week or two at the property.

You also may want to consider requiring identification for guests who will be staying for more than a few days. Not only do you protect yourself from additional wear and tear and liability but you protect the guests by knowing who is permitted to come in and out of the property.

Include language that puts liability for the damage and injuries of a guest on the tenant themselves.

  1. Appliance Repair or Replacement Guarantees (or Lack Thereof)

Many tenants enter a space and believe everything within it is guaranteed to either work or be replaced. As a landlord, this means you are on the hook for repairing every single issue with an appliance that comes in.

Is this something you are able to afford and want to be doing? Some landlords include lease clauses that stipulate which specific appliances are guaranteed and which are the tenant’s responsibility should the appliance need to be replaced.

  1. Dispute Resolution

Some tenants raise legal issues with landlords. It happens, and you need protection. Arbitration clauses in rental agreements prevent those disputes from going into an ugly legal battle and instead provide a simple dispute resolution process with tenants.

If you are dealing with a difficult tenant and need legal help to manage the situation or simply need help updating your rental contracts, contact Atlas Law today for a landlord’s advocate.

What Information Can Florida Landlords Gather to Screen Potential Tenants?

Florida landlords benefit from working and owning properties in such an appealing state. People want to live in the Sunshine State, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Census report that Florida is the fastest-growing state in the nation. Generally, this means any vacancy will see droves of applicants looking for a place to live. This does not guarantee every landlord will see good applicants, however.

Landlords need to weed out the bad tenants who pose a threat to their properties. Screening applicants will help you do this, but it’s imperative that all local laws and regulations surrounding tenant screening are followed to avoid lawsuits against you and your business.

Personal information

You obviously need to know who it is that’s applying for your property. This means gathering certain personal information during the application process, including:

  • Name(s)
  • Current residential address
  • Former residential addresses if the current residence is recent or temporary
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social security number

That last piece is obviously a vital piece of private information that must be protected. You and your team need to be careful about how and where sensitive information is received and stored.

Background checks

What’s important to note is that just because an applicant gives you their social security number does not mean they are consenting to a background check. Florida law requires express written consent for any background check to be conducted, so your application should include a section that explicitly asks for said consent.

A background check will be important to ensure the safety of your property, people, and community. You create financial liability if you ignore certain red flags and can also decrease your property value if crimes occur on or near your property.

Florida does not allow landlords to apply any blanket rules automatically denying tenancy due to a criminal record. All applicants must be considered even if they have a criminal record, but you are not required to approve them, either.

Financial information

A tenant who cannot pay rent does not serve you or your business. Asking for financial documents like pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements is permitted to ensure a potential tenant can afford housing costs.

Florida law does allow landlords to have minimum income requirements for properties. However, a recent trend of implementing a “tenant bill of rights” in several municipalities is challenging the way landlords gather and use information related to income sources.

As with any personal information, these documents must be tightly protected and only used when necessary.

Animal information

This one can get tricky. You are undeniably permitted to have a strict no-pet policy for your properties. However, there are loopholes for valid reasons that landlords cannot afford to miss.

You are allowed to ask for information about any pets. However, a tenant does not have to disclose if they have a qualified service or emotional support animal. These pets can live in any property, even if the landlord has a strict no-pet policy.

If you approve a tenant and they later inform you of this, you can only ask for documentation and information about the pet to confirm qualification. You should not press for information about the reasons the animal is needed or about the severity of a tenant’s disability.

Some people have attempted to abuse emotional support animal guidelines, so it’s important to be aware of how these laws work and when you can actually kick a tenant out for attempting to subvert the process.

Have an attorney review your application process

Are you unsure whether or not your application process violates these or other guidelines/laws in Florida? An attorney can review your application process and ensure you are gathering all the appropriate information, guaranteeing you the opportunity to select the right tenants for your properties.

When you need a landlord’s advocate, look no further than Atlas Law.