As of July 1, 2013 many changes were made to Florida’s landlord tenant statutes. On June 7, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed into law under CS/HB77 for some of the most comprehensive changes to Section 83 Part II of the Florida Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Below is a summary of many of the changes.
Attorney Fees – Previously, the Act provided that in a lawsuit regarding the enforcement of the lease/ rental agreement provisions or the Landlord Tenant Act that the prevailing party would be entitled to attorney fees. Under the new statute, the text clarifies that in cases where a person is injured on a rental property; attorney fees WILL NOT be awarded. Additionally, for lawsuits that do not involve personal injury, a lease may not permit the landlord to force tenants to waive their rights to attorney fees.
Security Deposits/Advance Rent – There was no clarity in the previous law whether or whether not a landlord had to notify a tenant if the bank (where the tenant’s security deposit was held) had gone through a name change, was sold, or merged with another financial institution. As of July 1, 2013, it is clear that a landlord is NOT required to notify a tenant of these changes.
Disclosure – Landlords under the old statute were required to provide a tenant with the Section 83.49(3) of the Florida Statutes. This explained the specific procedures regarding the security deposit and when and how landlords and tenants made claims against or returned the security deposit.
Under the new laws, a disclosure will be required in all Florida leases starting on January 1, 2014. Until that time, the old statute can remain or landlord may choose to add the disclosure language early. This disclosure will make it clear that a landlord does not have to notify the tenant if that tenant is using any advance rent when it becomes due. It also spells out that the landlord will have 30 days from the time the tenant moves out or vacates the unit to send a “Notice to Impose the Claim on Security Deposit” and it should also provide language encouraging landlord and tenant to do their best to informally settle disputes, but where an agreement cannot be reached, either party has the right to sue the other in a court of law.
Notice of Intention to Impose a Claim on Security Deposit – Previously if a landlord did not send out a “Notice of Intention to Impose a Claim on Security Deposit” on time or correctly, it was not clear as to whether the landlord was required to refund the entire amount of the security deposit or if it could be used against the amount the tenant owed with a refund to the tenant of the remainder. Under the new statute, if a landlord fails to send the “Notice of Intention to Impose a Claim on Security Deposit” on time and correctly, that landlord must return ALL of the security deposit but will be able to bring suit against the tenant in court to get a judgment for the principal claim if the landlord goes to court and prevails.
Security Deposit upon Sale of Property – Under the current law there is nothing that specifies what happens to a tenant’s security deposit when the rental property sells. Unfortunately oftentimes, the prior landlord (owner) ends up keeping it. Under the new law effective July 1, 2013 there is now a refutable presumption that the new landlord (owner) has received the tenant’s security deposit from the prior landlord (owner). It is also presumed that the amount of said deposit is limited to an amount equal to one month’s rent.
Window Screens – Before the new law the landlord was responsible for providing and maintaining screens in good condition. Because screens are often damaged or ruined by the tenant, the tenant’s guests, pets or family; the landlord was making frequent repairs and replacements. This gets expensive. With the new law effective on July 1, 2013, the landlord is responsible to provide screens on the windows that are in reasonably good condition and the landlord is only responsible to make repairs once a year.
Criminal Offenses – Under the prior statutes, the rights and duties of the Landlord –Tenant Act were only enforceable by civil action. Now, as of July 1, 2013, if a crime is committed by either tenant or landlord, there is a clarification of the law that such a crime be enforceable by criminal action as well.
Curable Violations – Prior to July 1, 2013, if a tenant violates a lease or the Landlord – Tenant Act, the tenant was given a 7 Day Notice that provided the tenant either cure (fix the violation) or vacate within 7 days. If that tenant offended the same or similar violation within a 12 month period, the landlord would have to then send another notice and wait the 7 days before filing in court for eviction. Well things just got easier! Under the new law, once a landlord gives a tenant a 7 Day Notice with the option to cure and that tenant re-commits after the 7 days have elapsed, the landlord is not required to provide another notice; instead that landlord may go straight to court and file for eviction.
Partial Rent Payments – Under the previous statute, it was misconstrued and thereby ruled by many judges that if a landlord accepts a partial rent payment, then that landlord could not take any court action against the tenant for that month. With the new law, as of July 1, 2013, the landlord MAY accept a partial payment and still proceed with an eviction in the same month provided that:
1. Landlord gives the tenant a receipt for the partial rent. OR
2. Landlord places the amount of the partial rent into the Court Registry, if eviction is filed in court. OR
3. Provide tenant a new 3 Day notice by posting it. Unfortunately there is no clarity whether a landlord can or cannot hand-deliver the notice. If hand-delivering is the method chosen, to be on the safe side, posting the notice in addition, may provide extra protection.
Subsidized Housing and Crime, Non-Compliances, Evictions – Before July 1, 2013, in some subsidized and/or government housing, if a tenant committed a crime and the landlord failed to file an eviction within 45 days of the time when the crime or non-compliance issue happened then the landlord would be prohibited from filing an eviction. This often put a landlord in a precarious position as many times a landlord did not even find out or know about the offense until after the 45 days had passed. Under the new law, a landlord has 45 days from the time he/she finds out about the crime or offense rather than “when the offense occurred”. This makes things fair for the landlord.
Lease Ending Notices – Prior law states that the landlord could make a tenant give notice prior to the end of the lease stating that the tenant is vacating. As of July 1, 2013 the statutes make it more even and less one-sided. Therefore if a landlord requires a 30 day prior notice from the tenant to vacate, a landlord must also accept a 30 day prior notice from the tenant when tenant chooses to vacate. A notice may be as high as 60 days but remember the requirement must be the same for landlord and tenant.
Evictions – Under the old law, a 3 day notice with a deficiency, no matter how insignificant could result in the tenant or the tenant’s attorney getting the case dismissed. As of July 1, 2013, a judge will not just dismiss a case due to a blemished 3 day notice but instead the tenant will have to place his/her rent money into the Court Registry before that tenant may object to any issues with the 3 day notice. If there is a problem with the notice, the landlord may now legally make the correction, serve a new notice OR file an amended pleading instead of having the case be dismissed altogether.
Writ of Possession – Under the old law, a writ could not be served on a Weekend or a legal holiday, causing these days to be omitted from the calculation of time passing from the service of the writ to the execution. As of July 1, 2013, the writ of possession may be served on a weekend or legal holiday. Typically a sheriff won’t be serving this paperwork on a weekend or holiday BUT the significance comes into play because weekends and holidays are no longer excluded when counting time passing.
Prohibited Landlord Practices – Before July 1, 2013, there were many things a landlord could not do and were against the law. This included shutting down a tenant’s utilities, locking a tenant out without going through the proper eviction channels, discrimination, retaliation against a tenant for organizing a tenant’s group, discrimination against military members along with others. Under the new law, 2 items are added that have to do with retaliation. The first being that a landlord may not retaliate against a tenant if that tenant must pay rent to a condo or homeowners association after a legal rent demand. Second, a landlord MUST not strike back against a tenant who utilizes their rights under fair housing laws, whether local, state or federal.
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