7 Landlord/Tenant Laws that Real Estate Investors Need to Know About
When investing in rental properties in Florida, real estate investors need to ensure that they have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the laws that govern the landlord/tenant relationship. If investors do not have an adequate understanding of these laws, not only can they encounter unexpected issues that limit the value of their investment, but they can potentially find themselves in legal trouble as well.
If you are a Florida real estate investor (or if you are planning to invest in Florida real estate), what do you need to know? Here are seven key landlord/tenant laws of which all real estate investors should be aware:
1. Fair Housing Laws
The federal Fair Housing Act and the Florida Fair Housing Act prohibit landlords from discriminating against prospective or current tenants based on various protected characteristics. Specifically, it is against the law for landlords to make decisions about granting leases, enforcing lease obligations or other tenant-related matters based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or family status. While both laws contain exceptions, each law’s exceptions are different, and landlords can face negative publicity and other issues even if their discriminatory conduct is not strictly prohibited.
2. Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
The Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act establishes numerous restrictions, requirements and prohibitions that pertain to “the rental of a dwelling unit.” In addition to being the source of legal authority behind many of the topics we discuss in detail below, the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act also contains basic provisions such as:
- Landlords have the right to receive rent for the use of their property.
- Landlords have the right to a return of their property in its pre-lease condition, normal wear and tear excepted.
- Landlords must ensure that their properties meet all housing code requirements and make reasonable repairs when necessary.
- Landlords must respect their tenants’ rights to peaceful possession and may not enter rented premises without notice.
- Landlords must obtain tenants’ consent and provide notice prior to showing rented premises to potential buyers.
3. Evictions for Nonpayment of Rent
While landlords are entitled to payment of rent, they are subject to special restrictions when it comes to evicting tenants for nonpayment. Specifically, landlords must wait three days before sending an eviction notice, and this eviction notice must provide the tenant with at least three additional days to come current on its rent obligations.
To be valid, an eviction notice based on nonpayment must include specific statements, and the landlord must deliver the notice to the tenant personally (either directly or through an agent), by mail, or by posting the notice at the rental property in a conspicuous place. If the tenant fails to pay after receiving notice, then the landlord must file a summons and complaint in court, and the landlord must win its eviction case before it can work with law enforcement to retake possession of the property.
4. Evictions for Other Lease Violations
In cases involving issues other than nonpayment of rent, landlords’ rights depend on whether they are seeking to evict for a curable or incurable lease violation. If a violation is curable, the landlord must provide the tenant with seven days’ notice and an opportunity to cure. If a violation is incurable, or if a tenant repeats a curable violation within a 12-month period, then the landlord can begin eviction proceedings after providing the tenant with at least seven days’ written notice.
5. Security Deposits
In Florida, landlords can require security deposits in any amounts they choose. They must keep all security deposits in a separate, non-interest-bearing account, and they must return a tenant’s security deposit within 15 days of lease termination unless they intend to retain all or a portion of the deposit in accordance with the terms of their lease agreement. When a landlord intends to impose a claim against a tenant’s security deposit, the landlord must provide 30 days’ written notice which includes an explanation of the reason for the claim. The tenant must then either accept the landlord’s decision or object within 30 days by filing a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) or in court.
6. Landlord Responsibilities
Landlords that rent single-family homes and duplexes are subject to two overarching requirements when it comes to the quality of the premises and tenants’ safety. As the FDCAS explains, unless otherwise agreed in writing, these landlords must:
- “Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing and health codes; or
- “Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes, maintain the plumbing in reasonably good working condition and maintain the roof, windows, screens, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads.”
Landlords that rent apartment units are subject to additional requirements. Specifically, Florida law requires that apartment lessors must “make reasonable provisions for”:
- Locks and keys;
- Common areas;
- Garbage disposal; and,
- Running water, hot water, and heat during winter.
7. Tenant Responsibilities
Tenants have various responsibilities under Florida law as well. In addition to complying with the terms of their lease agreements, Florida law provides that tenants must:
- Keep the rental unit clean and sanitary, including removing garbage from the dwelling in a clean and sanitary manner;
- Keep plumbing fixtures in good repair;
- Not damage, deface or remove any property belonging to the landlord;
- Avoid unreasonably disturbing neighboring tenants or property owners; and,
- Use and operate all electrical, plumbing, air conditioning and heating units, and appliances in a reasonable manner.
Schedule an Appointment with a Real Estate Lawyer in Miami or Fort Lauderdale
If you are a real estate investor and need to know more about Florida’s landlord/tenant laws, we invite you to schedule a complimentary initial consultation at Edelboim Lieberman Revah. Call 305-768-9099 or contact us online to speak with a real estate lawyer at our Miami or Fort Lauderdale law offices in confidence.