In Florida, Landlord and Tenant matters are primarily governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 83. The statutory procedures in Chapter 83 should be read carefully and followed strictly. If not, your case might fail, be dismissed, or lead to a prolonged dispute or litigation. If the parties have a lease agreement, to the degree that its terms are enforceable, the parties’ rights may be governed by the particular terms of their agreement.
COMMON REASONS FOR LANDLORD AND TENANT DISPUTES
The most common grounds for an eviction and reason for filing a landlord and tenant suit is unpaid rent. Other reasons for filing a landlord and tenant suit include failure to maintain the property, claims on security deposits, property damage, personal injury, unauthorized assignments, and other violations of the lease agreement or certain provisions of Florida’s statutes.
Oral agreements and poorly drafted lease agreements are also common reasons for landlord and tenant disputes. In terms of oral agreements, they are inherently ambiguous and difficult to prove. Moreover, because the parties have not put their agreement in writing, what exactly may have been agreed to is subject to memory and misunderstanding. In terms of written agreements, disputes can arise due to ambiguities, mistakes, misunderstandings, unforeseen circumstances, and a variety of other reasons.
Generally, in order to prevail in an action, you must apply the law correctly, put forth a legally sufficient argument, and do so according to the proper procedures.
In Florida, the following are some of the rules that often apply landlord and tenant disputes. Please note, what rules apply and how they apply depends on the facts of a particular case.
STATUTE OF FRAUDS
A rental agreement is a contract that may be oral or written. Florida’s Statute of Frauds, contained in Florida Statute 689.01, requires that a lease for more than one year must be in writing and signed by the parties and two witnesses, or the lease may be unenforceable. There are exceptions to the statute of frauds, depending on the type of transaction, evidence of the terms of the agreement, and whether the court would be serving justice by enforcing the agreement. This is a fact-specific inquiry and may depend on the case law of your jurisdiction.
TERMINATION FOR CAUSE
For unpaid rent, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to either pay the unpaid rent or vacate the unit. If the tenant pays the full amount within three days, minus weekends and holidays, the landlord must accept the payment. If the tenant offers the landlord less than the full amount, the landlord must reject the payment may have waved the right to pursue the eviction until a further breach occurs.
For a violation of the rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant a seven-day notice to either fix the violation or vacate the unit. If the tenant fixes, or “cures,” the violation within seven days, the landlord must not pursue the eviction.
For non-curable and repeat violations of the rental agreement, a landlord must provide the tenant with a seven-day notice. Unconditional-quit notices are for non-curable violations such as a serious destruction of property, or a violation that has reoccurred within a twelve-month period. Non-curable notices do not give the tenant an opportunity to cure. The tenancy is terminated, and the tenant has seven days to vacate the property. If the tenant refuses to vacate, the landlord can file a complaint for eviction.
TERMINATION WITHOUT CAUSE
If there is not a written lease or a lease without a specified period, the landlord can terminate the tenancy at will. In such cases, notice may not be required. Not unless a local statute or a written lease of unspecified duration states otherwise. However, if the tenant pays rent periodically, the length of period will usually determine the amount of notice that is required to terminate the tenancy.
For a week-to-week lease, notice must be given seven days before rent is due. For a month-to-month lease, notice must be given fifteen days before rent is due. Miami-Dade County, however, has a special law that requires a thirty-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy without a specific duration.
Notice requirements in different county may differ from the Chapter 83 requirements.
Tenants facing eviction are afforded certain rights. The violation of these rights may provide a tenant a claim or a defense against an action for eviction. In Florida, the following are some of the legal grounds upon which a tenant may challenge an eviction.
Under Florida Statute 83.67, a landlord seeking to evict a tenant cannot use “self-help procedures” to remove a tenant from the premises. For example, a landlord cannot force the tenant to leave; cannot disconnect the tenant’s utilities, such as the tenant’s water or electric; cannot change the tenant’s locks; cannot make threats; and cannot either seize or displace the tenant’s property. Otherwise, the tenant may have a valid defense to an eviction or could sue the landlord for monetary damages.
Florida law also prohibits retaliatory conduct. Florida Statute 83.64 states in part, “It is unlawful for a landlord to discriminatorily increase a tenant’s rent or decrease services to a tenant, or to bring or threaten to bring an action for possession or other civil action, primarily because the landlord is retaliating against the tenant. In order for the tenant to raise the defense of retaliatory conduct, the tenant must have acted in good faith.”
This is a non-exhaustive list of prohibitions. For example, there are also Federal statutes that afford additional protections for “protected” dwellings, such as those that receive Federal funding or assistance. As mentioned, every case is fact specific.
If you require legal assistance with a landlord and tenant or other legal matter, you can contact the Bress Law Firm at (954) 336-8049, or by email at michael@bressLaw.com. Initial consultations are free and confidential. We are located in Aventura, Florida, but serve clients throughout Miami-Dade County. All appointments are by appointment only.
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