Florida Landlord-Tenant Law
At CPC Law, we believe that real estate investing should be a major component of every diversified investment portfolio. Most of our investor clients rent out their properties to generate income and we work to protect that cash flow and the underlying property by helping our clients prevent and resolve the tenant disputes and problems that arise. We understand our investor clients in both the residential and commercial markets. Charles Castellon is a real estate investor who understand the challenges landlords often face.
All landlords should read and understand Florida Statute Section 83. By doing so, you’ll reduce your chances of getting into legal trouble and ever needing to hire an attorney to file an eviction, defend a tenant claim or any other related legal matter.
In particular, landlords need to understand their legal duties and tenants’ rights regarding security deposits. This is a hot area of law and a common place for tenants to play “gotcha” with their landlords. Because of attorneys’ fees provisions under the law, tenants often hire attorneys to pursue deposit claims for no advance fees. If the tenant prevails in court due to landlord errors, a very small deposit lawsuit can result in high attorneys’ fees payable to the tenant’s lawyer.
There are specific requirements for written notices to be given to tenants regarding their deposits. If you need to make a claim on a deposit or return it, the law is very strict on how to do this. If you intend to return the money, you must do so within fifteen days of the tenant leaving.
If there is a claim on all or part of the deposit, the landlord must send written notice to the tenant at their new address within thirty days. For Section 8, HUD-subsidized tenants, there are some subtle variations on these laws that landlords should be aware of.
It is critically important for landlords to follow the law and respect tenants’ rights concerning evictions. Self-help evictions involving changing the locks are strictly prohibited and can lead to severe civil penalties and possibly, criminal charges.
For lease violations based on failure to pay rent, the most common breach of the agreement, the landlord must serve a “three-day notice.” The notice gives three business days to pay the rent or vacate the property before you can sue to evict. The statute describes specific verbiage that must be used and things you can’t put in the notice, such as a demand for late fees.
This is a legal area with some technical pitfalls. Savvy tenants or their attorneys frequently get evictions dismissed for minor violations in the form, language or method of serving the three-day notice. We recommend hiring a process server to post it on the door or hand it to the tenant. You can hire a server for a small fee and they’ll sign an affidavit to give you evidence of how and when it was served.
For non-monetary lease violations, the landlord needs to serve a “seven-day notice” to provide an opportunity to cure the violation before filing an eviction. There are many potential grounds for eviction unrelated to the failure to pay rent and you need to carefully follow the law and observe the tenants’ rights with respect to those.
Other legal issues of concern to landlords include the fair-housing laws that prohibit discrimination based on protected classes of tenants. There is great potential to violate fair housing laws without even having bad intent. Not knowing the law can be extremely costly.
Currently, there is much confusion and some litigation over tenants’ rights to have assistance animals. No-pet policies do not apply to animals that help tenants with disabilities. While there are obvious examples landlords will recognize, such seeing-eye dogs, less conventional and more unusual types of animals are being used to help with physical and mental disabilities. Landlords must be careful not to violate these rights as well.
Our firm offers a complete array of landlord-tenant services and all other forms of legal assistance for the investor community. We are especially aware of the time-sensitive nature of this work, especially when landlords are forced to pay expenses including mortgages, taxes and insurance while the tenant is not paying rent. We move quickly, skillfully and decisively in full consideration of the stress and pressure that comes from landlord-tenant disputes.
We also believe that preventive legal care, like preventive medicine, can avoid many problems and their resulting costs before they happen. As such, we draft carefully-tailored and thorough legal documents including leases, lease-options, statutory notices, correspondence and lawsuits such as evictions and other causes of action. Some firms effectively handle the “2-hop ground balls” of uncontested evictions, which simply involves pushing paper for a judge to rubber-stamp.
These days, tenants are fighting back more than ever, in large part due to the abundance of young and hungry attorneys willing to represent them cheaply of for no money at all in the hopes of catching landlords in technical legal mistakes that will allow them to collect attorney’s fees from the landlord. As such, landlords need an experienced litigator willing and able to fight evictions in court.
CPC Law goes to court to fight for our clients and we effectively negotiate settlements for our clients’ benefit at mediation conferences or complete the eviction. Our landlord-tenant services and other legal work for the investor community are provided with the highest level of skill, knowledge and professionalism for all clients from the “mom & pop” landlords to commercial property owners under reasonable fee arrangements.
For landlords who want to try handling residential evictions on their own and save hiring an attorney for other matters or simply want to study this subject for their own knowledge, we’ve created the attached Florida Landlord’s Eviction Flow Chart with corresponding legal forms. These documents provide a step-by-step guide through the eviction process from the first missed payment to the Sheriff taking the tenants out of your home.
CPC Law can be the trusted advisor to help Florida landlords with all their legal needs. Call us for your attorney consultation.