It’s the 1st of the month and you get a call: “I’m not paying!”
Rental properties in Florida fall under Chapter 83 of the Florida Landlord Tenant Law. As mentioned in an earlier post, it is highly recommended that both the Landlord and Tenant take the time to review the laws before committing under a legally binding contract. In it you will find that there are specfic duties and procedures that MUST be followed to protect yourself in the event a dispute were ever to be taken to court.
One such issue that you’ll encounter involves the Tenant Right to Withhold rent. According to the Chapter both the Landlord and Tenant have responsibility to properly maintain the premises. On one end the Landlord has the right to provide a safe environment for the tenant and on the other the Tenant has to maintain it. Chapter 83 states that the Landlord must comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes. It states that Landlord should maintain the roofs, windows, screens, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition.
Unlike a hotel, the Tenant also has responsibility to maintain their share:
(1) Comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building, housing, and health codes.
(2) Keep that part of the premises which he or she occupies and uses clean and sanitary.
(3) Remove from the tenant’s dwelling unit all garbage in a clean and sanitary manner.
(4) Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant clean and sanitary and in repair.
(5) Use and operate in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators.
So what should a Tenant do if they believe that it has come to a point where the threat of withholding rent must be used? In a situation where the landlord has failed or refused to do repairs, rendering the leased premises (this is important) wholly untenantable, the tenant may withhold rent after notice to the landlord. The tenant shall serve the landlord, in the manner prescribed by s. 83.20(3), with a written notice declaring the premises to be wholly untenantable, giving the landlord at least 20 days to make the specifically described repair or maintenance, and stating that the tenant will withhold the rent for the next rental period and thereafter until the repair or maintenance has been performed.
Once the landlord has completed the repair or maintenance, the tenant shall pay the landlord the amounts of rent withheld. If the landlord does not complete the repair or maintenance in the allotted time, the parties may extend the time by written agreement or the tenant may abandon the premises, retain the amounts of rent withheld, terminate the lease, and avoid any liability for future rent or charges under the lease.
In the end it’s best to resolve any issues as amicably as possible. Tenants want a place that they can enjoy and call home and Landlords would love nothing more than to keep a long term tenant. If things do hit a bumpy patch however hopefully this helps to at least give a direction to follow.