South Florida’s real estate has reached epidemic levels. Let’s face it; most of the current or ongoing development is not for working-class people who wake up before dawn, barely see the light of day in an office cubicle only to arrive home at night and be reminded again and again that your place is uninhabitable. The lack of affordable housing coupled with constant landlord harassment is more than a humble tenant could bear. As insignificant as you may feel, if you are a tenant, you have a voice. But there is more if you are willing to learn about your legal rights and claim them with the help of a landlord-tenant attorney.
Tenant rights make it right
So if you are going to be unfairly treated, you should learn about your rights and responsibilities. Not everything in life comes easy. You have to dig deeper for something good to happen. Things will remain unchanged if you don’t do something about it. Yes, your relationship with your landlord can get sticky but when things go awry, check these out:
- Landlords have a legal duty to keep your place in a reasonable condition – That’s right, your residence should be maintained in a condition that complies with all the requirements of the applicable housing, building, and health codes. Sounds serious right? Yes, pretty serious. As a Florida residential tenant, you have the right to hold your landlord responsible for failing to maintain your place. That is also called the warranty of habitability. However, in cases that involve a single family home or duplex, the landlord can modify some responsibilities in the lease agreement. As long as the tenant agrees to the new language in the agreement, the landlord may not be responsible for some things.
- The right to have the security deposit held in a bank account – The tenant has the right to have his or her security deposit held in a Florida bank account somewhere kept separately from other assets the landlord may have. If the security deposit was held in an interest-bearing account, the tenant has the right to get at least 75% of the interest.
- The right to have the security deposit refunded – Tenants should get their security deposit back no more than 15 days after they have moved out. The interest on the deposit is also paid unless specified otherwise in the lease agreement. Sometimes landlords try to keep some or all the security deposit perhaps due to a wear and tear issue, but even in such cases, the landlord must provide the tenant with a notice.
- The tenant has the right to have a notice in writing from the landlord stating the intentions to end the residential lease – For example, if your landlord wants you to leave because you are behind on the rent or because you have failed to perform other duties and responsibilities listed in the lease, he must provide you a written notice first.
- Under Florida law, the tenant has the right to proper service of any lawsuit where the tenant is the defendant, whether that includes an eviction lawsuit, or a lawsuit filed to recover unpaid rent or damages.
- Tenant’s right to legal fees – That includes attorney’s fees, court costs, and the landlord must cover damages if the tenant wins the lawsuit.
- Right to a reduction of the rent – Florida law gives the tenant rights when defending against a landlord in a lawsuit. In other words, the landlord can’t lock you out of your home, but you must pay your rent in order to raise a defense against your landlord. The tenant, however, can request the rent to be reduced due to the inhabitable conditions of the premises.
Suing is not always the best option
There are times when suing may not be a good idea. If you are suing your landlords too often, chances are you will have a hard time trying to find a place in the years to come. So what do you do? Unless you have legitimate circumstances that make your lawsuit the only reasonable option, such as when your landlord’s carelessness causes a severe injury, you should not waste your time suing. You can send a demand letter. That is a letter stating that you intend to sue the landlord unless the issues in your property are fixed. Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in an acceptable standard.
We want to hear from you
If you are renting an apartment down here in Florida, and have a few concerns about your legal rights as a tenant, we want to hear from you. You will never know unless you ask.