Landlords and property owners who rent out their property to tenants must fulfill certain legal obligations in Florida. Under Florida law, tenants are equal parties with the landlord and have rights and responsibilities, just as the landlord does.
What the landlord can’t do
The Florida Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects Florida tenants from unfair or unsafe landlord behavior. Under this law, landlords may not:
- Create unfair rules, terms, or privileges in a leasing agreement
- Retaliate against or intimidate tenants who exercise their fair housing rights
- Limit tenants to different facilities or services
- Bar tenants from access to rental-related memberships
- Prevent tenants from renting or negotiating for housing
- Prevent tenants from inspecting housing
- Discriminate based on a tenant’s protected characteristic such as handicap, race, national origin, color, religion, sex, and familial status, including pregnancy or adoption
The landlord may not terminate the rental agreement or evict the tenant if the tenant is fulfilling the legally written rental agreement before the period is completed, nor may the landlord try to force out a tenant by turning off utilities, changing locks, removing property, etc.
What the landlord must do
The Landlord’s responsibilities, per 2017 Florida Statutes paragraph 83.51, are as follows:
- The landlord at all times during the tenancy shall:
(a) Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; or
(b) Where there are no applicable building, housing, or health codes, maintain the roofs, windows, 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. The landlord, at commencement of the tenancy, must ensure that screens are installed in a reasonable condition. Thereafter, the landlord must repair damage to screens once annually, when necessary, until termination of the rental agreement.
- (a) Unless otherwise agreed in writing, in addition to the requirements of subsection (1), the landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for:
1. The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs. When vacation of the premises is required for such extermination, the landlord is not liable for damages but shall abate the rent. The tenant must temporarily vacate the premises for a period of time not to exceed 4 days, on 7 days’ written notice, if necessary, for extermination pursuant to this subparagraph.
2. Locks and keys.
3. The clean and safe condition of common areas.
4. Garbage removal and outside receptacles therefor.
5. Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water.
(b) Unless otherwise agreed in writing, at the commencement of the tenancy of a single-family home or duplex, the landlord shall install working smoke detection devices.
Right of Quiet Enjoyment
The landlord has the duty to respect and deliver the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. This means that while the landlord’s ownership is unquestionable, the tenant’s possession, when the tenant is fulfilling the written rental agreement, shall not be disturbed. For example:
- The landlord may not enter the dwelling without reasonable cause and reasonable forewarning
- The landlord’s behavior may not interfere with the tenant’s normal life or business
- The landlord’s actions may not cause undue burden or harassment of the tenant, intended or unintended
Not having a landlord walk in on you as if he “owns the place” is a reasonable expectation. An example of the second point may be the landlord engaging in extensive renovations in another apartment that causes excessive noise that affects one’s comfortable living or does the work at inappropriate times that might disturb one’s sleep or relaxation. The third example may include the landlord engaging security guards who intimidate the tenants unnecessarily.
When landlords break the law
If your landlord is not fulfilling his duties, your first responsibility is to inform him. It is best to do so in writing or with a witness present. You can present your landlord with a written concern in person to ensure that he has received it. Recording the exchange is particularly helpful.
For example, if the railing on the steps is rusty and crumbling, risking a fall, or if there are areas outside the building that are insufficiently lit, risking slip and fall injuries or criminal behavior, you should inform your landlord immediately. These are serious situations that require quick action. If the landlord’s renovation project is leaving a mess in common areas or excessive noise in your unit, again, inform him in writing so that he has the opportunity to adjust the way the project is being performed or work out an agreed-upon schedule with you.
If your landlord does not address the concern in a timely manner, contact a personal injury attorney with expertise in tenant-landlord disputes. Many rental apartments are now owned by large management companies that may need a lawyer’s pressure to encourage them to notice and take action on a tenant’s concerns. If there are unsafe conditions, please don’t wait until someone is hurt.
If you or a loved one have already been hurt by a landlord’s negligence, or if your landlord is breaking the law or neglecting his duties in some other way, please contact me from anywhere in Florida at (954) 448-7288, 24/7 for a free consultation to see how I can help you. As an experienced personal injury lawyer and a life-long resident of Florida, I am committed to helping Floridians who are being unjustly treated or have been injured by negligence receive the compensation they deserve.