6 Tenant Rights That All Florida Tenants and Landlords Need to Know

Posted By on September 5, 2017

In Florida, residential tenancies are governed by (1) Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes under what is commonly known as “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” (see Florida Statute 83.40) and (2) the language in the individual lease or rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

These two work together to define the duties of a landlord to a tenant and define the legal rights of a residential tenant here in Florida.  The interaction of this statute with a lease or rental agreement can sometimes make things complicated and costly for landlords.

A complication generally manifests itself when a landlord either ignores or is ignorant of the rights granted to a tenant under Florida’s statutory law.   In these situations, the cost to the landlord can include a variety of remedies for a tenant, including the landlord paying actual and consequential damages, injunctive relief and the payment of the tenant’s attorney fees.
 

Kipling Arms Apartments
Kipling Arm Apartments: State Archives of Florida

 
Here are 6 common examples of rights that tenants have in Florida that landlords sometimes disrespect or disregard:

1.  Tenant Right to Have Residence in Reasonable Condition and Code-Compliant

Under Florida Statute 83.51, residential landlords have a legal duty to keep their residential property in a condition that complies with the requirements of the applicable building, housing, and health codes for that location.

Meaning, a Florida residential tenant has the right to hold a landlord responsible for failing to maintain the premises and keep its component in good repair and in reasonable working condition.

However, if the rental is a single-family home or a duplex, then the landlord may alter or modify some of its obligations in the lease agreement.  If the tenant agrees to the altered language, then the tenant has agreed that the landlord does not need to make provisions for things like extermination and garbage removal.

2. Tenant Right to Security Deposit With Statutory Interest

Florida Statute 83.49 is detailed on how a landlord must handle and protect a tenant’s security deposit, including its return.

The right to have security deposit held in a Florida Banking Institution

First and foremost, a tenant has a right to have their security deposit held in a bank account.  Under Florida Statute 83.49(1), the landlord must deposit the security deposit in a separate interest bearing or non-interest-bearing account in a Florida banking institution for the benefit of the tenant or tenants.

The tenant has a right to have the security deposit kept separately from any other assets of the landlord.  The landlord legally cannot commingle the security deposit with any other funds and cannot use the security deposit in any way.

For interest bearing accounts, the interest the tenant has a right to get on the security deposit is (1) at least 75% of the annualized average interest rate payable on such account or (2) interest at the rate of 5% per year, simple interest.

The right to prompt return of the security deposit

The law mandates that the tenant must get their security deposit back “no more than 15 days” after they move out. The tenant also has a right to be paid the interest on that security deposit for the time that it was with the landlord unless otherwise provided in the lease agreement.

If the landlord wants to keep some (or all) of the security deposit, then the landlord must comply with the detailed instructions of Florida Statute 83.49 which include providing the tenant with a notice that includes the following language pursuant to the statute:

This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of   upon your security deposit, due to  . It is sent to you as required by s. 83.49(3), Florida Statutes. You are hereby notified that you must object in writing to this deduction from your security deposit within 15 days from the time you receive this notice or I will be authorized to deduct my claim from your security deposit. Your objection must be sent to   (landlord’s address) .

Read: How to Get a Refund of Your Security Deposit from the Landlord When Renting a Home or Apartment

3. Tenant Right to Proper Written Notice from the Landlord

The tenant has the right to receive a notice in writing of the landlord’s desire to end the residential lease.  Usually, the landlord wants the tenant to leave because the tenant is behind on the rent.  However, there are times when the landlord wants to evict the tenant because the tenant has failed to perform other things listed in the lease.

Whatever the reason, the landlord has to give written notice to the tenant.  Moreover, that written notice must follow certain guidelines or it will not legally be considered proper and effective notice.

For instance, under Florida Statute 83.56(3),(4), the written notice to the tenant from the landlord:

  • Must be delivered by mail or by delivering a copy to the property.
  • Three days has to pass between the date of the notice and any filing of a lawsuit against the tenant by the landlord. Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays are not counted here.

The written notice must also include specific language that is specified in Florida law. For instance, Florida Statute 83.56(3) provides the following paragraph has to be in the written notice for unpaid rent:

“You are hereby notified that you are indebted to me in the sum of   dollars for the rent and use of the premises   (address of leased premises, including county)  , Florida, now occupied by you and that I demand payment of the rent or possession of the premises within 3 days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) from the date of delivery of this notice, to wit: on or before the   day of  ,   (year)  .

Signed, (landlord’s name, address, phone number)”

Related: Tenant Defenses to Residential Evictions in Florida

4. Tenant Right to Proper Service of Any Lawsuit by the Landlord

If the landlord decides to sue the tenant, then the tenant has the right to proper service of that lawsuit.  Service of the lawsuit follows the Florida procedures rulesSee, e.g., Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.070 and Form 1.902.

Under Florida law, the tenant has the right to proper service of two things: (1) any lawsuit filed by the landlord for eviction and (2) any lawsuit filed to recover unpaid rent or damages.

This must be done via a summons issued by the clerk of the court where the residence is located.  The clerk must be asked by the landlord to issue the summons and to deliver that summons to the sheriff for the county where the residence is located.

Separate summonses are needed for (1) eviction and (2) claims for rent or damages (see below related to the amount of time a tenant has to file an answer to the complaint/lawsuit).  They are then delivered to the tenant along with the formal complaint (the document that initiates the lawsuit) filed by the landlord.

5. Tenant Right to Attorney’s Fees, Court Costs, and Damages

Additionally, it’s important for a tenant to know that Florida Statute 83.48 deals with attorneys’ fees and court costs in any lawsuit brought to enforce the rental agreement or for violation of the Act.

If the tenant sues for violation of his or her rights or is defending against a lawsuit brought by the landlord, and the tenant wins, then the landlord must pay both reasonable court costs and the tenant’s legal fees.  This tenant right cannot be waived by any language in the lease agreement.

Furthermore, under Florida statute 83.55, if the landlord fails to comply with the requirements of the lease agreement or any part of Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, the tenant may recover the damages caused by the noncompliance.

6. Tenant’s Right to Stay in Place after Landlord Files a Lawsuit

Florida law also gives the residential tenant rights in defending against any lawsuit filed by the landlord.  The tenant, for instance, has five days (where the landlord asks for possession or asks to evict the tenant) to twenty days (where the landlord asks for rent damages) to file an answer to the complaint. The time starts on the day that the sheriff serves the summons on the tenant (or it is posted on the door).  Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are not counted towards the deadline.

After Lawsuit for Unpaid Rents

The tenant has the right to assert defenses to the landlord’s allegations.  This can include a Motion to Determine the Amount of Rent to Be Paid into the Registry.  Here, the tenant has a right to remain in the rental until the court decides the matter.  Meanwhile, the rent money is entrusted to the clerk of the court (“placed into the registry”).

After Eviction Lawsuit

Once a tenant files an answer to an eviction lawsuit filed by the landlord, then he cannot be evicted until the civil lawsuit process has finalized.  The landlord cannot force the tenant to vacate the rental until the court renders its decision in the case.

What Should You Do?

If you rent a home, condo or apartment here in Florida and have concerns about your rights as a tenant, then a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights because the law provides for the payment of your attorney fees if the court rules in your favor (which means, in many instances, a tenant will not have to pay any money to a lawyer, unless the lawyer wins their case).

Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.

_______________

Picture of Larry Tolchinsky

Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Larry an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.

 
 
 
 
If you found this information helpful, please share this article and bookmark it for your future reference.

Comments

2 Responses to “6 Tenant Rights That All Florida Tenants and Landlords Need to Know”

  1. Leticia says:

    I recently tried to rent an Apt in Olympian Gardens Condo in Miami. I was asked to give a security deposit of ….

  2. Sorry if this is frustrating! However, we’re not allowed to answer personal queries in blog post comments, or to contact you directly, so we ask that you give our office a call for a chat about your situation.
    Thanks,
    Larry

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.

css.php