Florida is the happy home of so many native Floridians as well as the destination state of so many new residents. We have a variety of living options, including many rental properties that are well-maintained and comfortable. But what happens when your rental unit or the associated public spaces need important repairs and your landlord refuses to make them? You may need to take legal action.
You pay rent to your landlord in exchange for a safe and healthy environment. You have a right to demand that from your landlord. Naturally, things can be damaged by the actions of the tenants, such as holes in the wall or clogged toilets from too much paper put in them. It’s reasonable in situations like this for the landlord to expect the tenant to be responsible for the costs of repairs. This is usually stipulated in the rental contract. But general repairs and safety issues and damage caused by another tenant that affects you are the responsibility of the landlord. He or she may not blame you for these issues nor put off repairs indefinitely.
Types of issues
Your landlord is responsible for the safety and proper functioning of public spaces as well as the condition of your unit’s structure and utilities. The Florida Warrant of Habitability requires repairs to be made within 7 days of being informed in writing about the problem. Issues specifically stated in Florida law include:
- Windows, doors, floors kept in good repair
- Roof, walls, etc. waterproof and not leaking
- Hot and cold running water in each unit
- Working HVAC for units and indoor common areas
- Working plumbing, electricity, outlets, and lighting
- Working sanitation (tubs, showers, toilets)
- Trash cans (for multi-family units)
- Working smoke detectors (for single-family units and duplexes)
While not specifically mentioned in the Warrant of Habitability, your landlord has the same responsibility as any other company or organization to keep the property in good repair to avoid possible accidents or injuries. These may include:
- Sufficient security to protect tenants and their property: locks on doors and windows, sufficient lighting in corridors, alleys, parking lots, hallways, etc.
- Clean and safe structures such as sidewalks and paths, steps, and handrails and good drainage to avoid puddles in order to prevent slips and falls or other injuries
- Construction areas or areas under repair roped off for the safety of passersby
- Fire safety, such as sprinkler systems – laws have been passed requiring installation in apartment buildings and high rises that formerly were constructed without them
- Pest control in multi-family units (not singles or duplexes): rats, mice, roaches, ants, bedbugs, pests that destroy wood (termites, etc.)
What you can do
In Florida, tenants do not have the legal right to withhold rent or to “repair and deduct” – that is, they cannot fix the problem themselves and deduct the cost from their rent. In Florida, you should submit a written notice to the landlord about the issue, at which point the landlord has seven days to complete the necessary repairs. It is important to include a statement of recourse if the landlord does not complete the repairs. You may put in writing that you will exercise your right to cancel the rental agreement if the repairs are not made, or you will ask the court to order repairs or compensation.
Before making such a statement, make sure the problem is a real habitability problem and that you have somewhere to go if you did have to leave. For instance, if you have two toilets and the plumbing of one causes it to constantly clog, your landlord does have the responsibility to fix it, but you probably don’t want to threaten to leave for it. The unit is still habitable. If, however, you have no running water in the unit at all, your landlord knows and has delayed in repairs, it is within your rights to cancel or sue if the repairs are not quickly made.
If you are concerned about multiple safety issues, or if you fear your landlord will retaliate, you may have a bigger problem; a landlord who simply is not fulfilling his legal obligations is threatening the safety and welfare of you, your children, and possibly other tenants, as well.
There are laws against retaliation, and there are laws of habitability and safety. Before anyone is hurt, contact me to discuss your options. And if you or a loved one has been injured due to unsafe conditions in your rental or on the rental property, I can help. As a personal injury lawyer and Floridian, I am committed to helping residents throughout Florida receive just and fair compensation for injuries sustained due to the negligence of others. Contact me 24/7 at (954) 448-7288 to see how I can help you.