As a landlord and property owner, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the property allows your tenants to benefit from certain rights. In Florida, these rights include the right to fair housing, the right to habitable housing, and the right to privacy, among others. A failure to comply with appropriate housing regulation may lead to a landlord-tenant dispute and even warrant a lawsuit against the landlord.
If the tenant has a valid basis for such a lawsuit and his case prevails in court, the landlord may be ordered by the judge to pay damages, or monetary compensation, to the tenant. In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the kinds of damages a tenant may obtain in a tenant’s rights case.
Damages for Wrongfully Withholding Security Deposit
According to Florida landlord-tenant law, a landlord may retain security deposit either in part or in full only under very specific circumstances. For example, a landlord may use the deposit to cover unpaid rent. The deposit can also be withheld for damage to the property that is in excess of ordinary wear and tear.
However, if a landlord withholds the deposit using damage to the property as a mere pretext, a tenant may choose to pursue a lawsuit. If the court decides that withholding security deposit was unreasonable, the tenant may be awarded the following kind of damages:
- Security deposit with interest: The judge may order the landlord to return the security deposit to the tenant in part or in full along with corresponding interest
- Triple damages: In certain cases, the judge may find that the landlord’s action was completely unwarranted and unreasonable and order the tenant to pay the tenant three times the value of security deposit as compensation
- Attorneys’ Fees: If the tenant hired an attorney and prevails on his/her claim for the security deposit, the judge may declare that the tenant is the “prevailing party.” The prevailing party would be entitled to his/her attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the lawsuit. Additionally, if the attorney takes the matter on a contingency fee basis, the judge could award a contingency fee multiplier, which multiplies the attorneys’ fees by 1.5 to 3 times the actual amount of the attorneys’ fees incurred.
Damages in Habitability Violation Cases
As we explained in our previous blog, a landlord is legally obliged to provide tenants with housing that conforms to certain living standards. This obligation is commonly known as the warranty of habitability. A failure to ensure habitability may lead to a lawsuit. If the tenant prevails in such a lawsuit, he or she may be awarded the following kinds of damages:
- Return of rent paid
- Attorney fees
- Emotional distress damages (if the tenant successfully proves that the landlord’s negligence in providing habitability caused him or her emotional distress)
- Tort damages (if the tenant proves that the landlord’s negligence was a cause of the tenant’s injury, the tenant may file a personal injury claim and recover financial compensation for his or her injuries and related expenses)
Atlas Law – A Landlord’s Advocate
Being targeted with a lawsuit coming from a disgruntled tenant can be stressful for the landlord. However, in some instances, claims put forward by a tenant may be unfair and unwarranted. As a landlord, you need trusted legal assistance to protect your rights and interests. Atlas Law specializes in landlord-tenant cases and offers comprehensive legal assistance for a landlord. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys and obtain the help you need and deserve.