In less than four months, the Sunshine State will once again be in the throes of hurricane season. Landlords need to be on high alert for any property damages resulting from these destructive storms. High winds can cause devastation, but the biggest threat to commercial and residential properties is flooding.
Water in buildings commonly causes wood rot, drywall deterioration, and mold infestations. Mold infestations can cause health problems for even otherwise-healthy people. In these situations, tenants often assert their rights to encourage landlords to make repairs they believe are necessary.
What Does Florida Law Say About Making Repairs?
Broadly speaking, state law requires landlords to maintain properties for tenants and ensure they remain habitable. If a tenant believes a property has become “wholly untenantable,” they can put the landlord on a ticking clock to make the necessary repairs. The tenant may send a notice to their landlord alleging certain repairs need to be made in order to render the property usable again.
If the landlord does not respond to the notice within seven days, tenants may be able to withhold rent or even terminate the lease by moving out. In the latter situation, tenants will not be liable for any future rent.
According to Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes, landlords have 20 days to actually repair the issue making the property untenantable. Tenants may exercise the same rights described in the above paragraph to help effectuate the repairs in the mandated time frame.
An important note here is that these provisions only apply to damages that actually fall under a landlord’s purview. The two parties sometimes come to a different agreement in leases. And, landlords are usually not responsible for repairing damages that were ultimately caused by tenants. However, repairs for hurricane-caused damages are almost always the responsibility of Florida landlords.
Our Recommendations for Florida Landlords
After a hurricane has passed through areas where you own properties, we strongly encourage you to visit each one of them as soon as you are able. Seven days is an extremely short amount of time to respond to your tenants, and it sometimes takes nearly that long for the tenant’s notice to get to you in the first place.
In an ideal situation, you will be in constant communication with your tenants so they can give you a phone call as soon as they see property damage. Having a good relationship with your tenants may allow you some more flexibility and allow you to operate outside the rigid timelines offered by state law.
Don’t be afraid to hire a contractor for mold remediation, either. Mold can start growing as soon as 24 hours after water damage takes hold indoors. Too many landlords simply treat water leaks and neglect to address mold issues, which can cause huge problems later on.
Above all, it’s important to be proactive after a hurricane or major storm strikes your area. Even if you are not sure that your properties have sustained damage, it’s well worth it to see the conditions with your own eyes.
Atlas Law stands with Florida landlords in a wide variety of situations that require legal counsel. We work with both residential and commercial landlords to ensure their rights and revenue streams are protected. Contact our team today for personalized and effective representation.