The Bress Law Firm represents landlords and tenants in both Commercial and Residential Landlord-Tenant disputes. If you are involved in a landlord-tenant dispute, our firm will prepare the strategy, statutory notices; and, if the dispute cannot be resolved out of court, prepare your action or defenses, file the pleadings, and zealously defend your interests in court.
In Florida, Landlord-Tenant matters are primarily governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 83. The statutory procedures in Chapter 83 should be followed rigorously. If not, your case may be dismissed, you might provide the other side with claims or defenses, needlessly lose your case, or your case might take much longer to resolve.
In addition to this, if the dispute is going to be litigated in court, you also need to follow the proper procedures and advance proper arguments that are factual and based on the laws of the applicable jurisdiction.
These are some of the reason why in order to successfully resolve such disputes, you interests are best served by hiring an attorney.
COMMON REASONS FOR LANDLORD-TENANT DISPUTES
The most common grounds for an eviction and reason for filing a landlord-tenant suit is unpaid rent. Given the current pandemic and eviction moratorium, this will probably be more so the case for the foreseeable future.
According to the Census Bureau, as of July 2020, one in three tenants are behind in rental payments or will not be able to pay rent in July or August. The current housing crisis is no doubt an ugly situation. On one hand, many tenants are going to lose their homes and apartments. In many cases, due to no fault of their own. On the other hand, many landlords, still liable for mortgage payments and maintenance costs, are being deprived of a substantial source of income and might be at risk of losing their property.
Other reasons for filing a landlord-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 the Florida Statutes.
More generally, oral agreements and poorly drafted lease agreements also lead to otherwise unnecessary disputes and litigation. This may be for a variety of reasons, including mistakes, omissions, ambiguities, and unforeseen implications.
In brief, the following are some of the rules that in Florida apply to common landlord-tenant disputes. Please note, however, the law is fact specific. 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.
STAUTE OF FRAUDS
A rental agreement is a contract that may be oral or written. However, 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 or will 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. These 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 does not leave, 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 is not required. Not unless a local statute or a written lease of unspecified duration states otherwise.
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.
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; change the tenant’s locks; make threats; or either seize or displace the tenant’s property. Otherwise, the tenant could sue the landlord for damages or may have a valid defense to an eviction.
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.
In short, the interests of all those involved are best served by following the proper rules and procedures. Your interests might also be best served by attempting to work out a compromise with the other party. Given the difficulties and uncertainties imposed by the pandemic, many of these landlord-tenant decisions have become more complicated. An attorney advises not only on the law, but also on the potential consequences of different courses of action.
If you require legal assistance with a landlord-tenant or other legal matter, you can contact the Bress Law Firm, PLLC. 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. By appointment only.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. You are welcome to contact us about a legal matter via. Phone, Letter, or Electronic Mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Our firm, however, treats all client information as strictly confidential.