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Whose Right is it Anyway? Navigating Landlord-Tenant Disputes

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It is no secret that navigating landlord-tenant disputes can be stressful (and expensive) for a client.  While it may be less common for realtors to have a client who needs help with a landlord-tenant dispute, knowing the answers to common questions about landlord-tenant disputes can help you assist your clients with issues they may be facing.  Here are some answers to common questions that often get litigated in landlord-tenant disputes.

If the Tenant Stops Paying Rent, Can a Landlord Shut Off the Utilities or Change the Locks to the Rental Unit?

No!  In Florida, landlords are not permitted to terminate utility services, prevent access to the rental property, or remove a tenant’s personal property from the rental unit. Any violation of Florida Statute § 83.67 can result in the landlord being liable to the tenant for damages which can be upwards of three (3) months’ rent in addition to attorney’s fees.  A landlord experiencing a problem tenant must proceed through the proper channels of eviction to recover possession of the rental unit.

Are There Any Implied Warranties Associated With Renting a Residential Property to a Tenant?

Yes!  While some of these requirements depend on the residential unit type, a landlord generally is responsible for providing a “habitable dwelling.” Florida Statute § 83.51 requires that a landlord ensure that the tenant has a right to private, peaceful living, that the rental unit has functional utilities, including running water and hot water, that the rental unit is structurally safe, and that the common areas are well-maintained.  Additionally, the landlord is responsible for making any repairs included in the lease agreement with the tenant.

Is a Landlord Responsible For All Repairs to the Rental Unit During a Tenancy?

No!  A landlord is only responsible for the items listed above and the items specifically agreed to in the lease.  Additionally, depending on the multi-family or single-family rental unit, a landlord may also be responsible for pest control.  Maintenance of an air conditioner, providing kitchen appliances, etc., are not required unless specifically provided for in the lease.

Can a Tenant Withhold Rent or Unilaterally Terminate a Tenancy?

Yes and no.  A tenant may only withhold rent if they provide the landlord with an official notice of withholding rent due to required repairs that need to be made to the property. For example, suppose there are issues with the structural integrity of the rental unit, lack of hot water, or something specifically negotiated for in the lease. In that case, a landlord has a short grace period to perform those repairs, or the tenant can legally withhold rent.  The right to withhold rent is not absolute; however, the tenant can only withhold rent in proportion to its negative effect on the value of the rental unit.

If you have a client who needs help with a landlord-tenant issue, be sure to have them contact their attorney.

Picture of Brad Spivey, Esq.

Brad Spivey, Esq.

Brad Spivey has been practicing as a litigation attorney since 2019 and handled a wide range of client matters, including complex business litigation, landlord-tenant disputes, contract disputes, insurance disputes, and personal injury litigation.

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