Q&A: Your rights as a renter - FOX 13 News

Q&A: Your rights as a renter

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Forget Florida vs. Florida State. Move over conservative vs. liberal. There's an older, uglier grudge match: landlord vs. tenant.

Renters and their landlords rarely, if ever, see eye-to-eye. And we hear about it regularly. Often, the cases fall into one of two broad categories. Either renters have misconceptions about the law, or a landlord oversteps his authority.

Here are some of the most common questions we field from time to time, with answers compiled from Florida statutes, the Florida Bar, and the Florida International University Center for Administration of Justice:

1.) Can my landlord throw me out on-the-spot?

No. Florida law is clear. The county sheriff enforces evictions, and only after a judge issues a court order. If the landlord doesn't have a court order and a sheriff's deputy with him, you can't legally be evicted.

2.) Can my landlord enter my property at any time?

A landlord has the right to inspect his property. However, he may enter only after providing notice to the tenant. In emergency situations, however, these restrictions can be waived.

3.) What basics must a rental property include?

Florida law requires that rental properties be habitable and safe, regardless of whether there is a written lease or an oral rental agreement. Here are your entitlements when paying rent:

  • -Doors that lock
  • -A sealed roof (that does not leak)
  • -Hot water
  • -A property that is free of pests
  • -A flushable toilet
  • -Sealed walls and windows
  • -Screens on windows
  • -Safe ceilings and walls

4.) If my apartment has a problem, may I withhold my rent payment?

Yes. Florida law allows tenants to withhold their rent payment, provided they give the landlord at least seven day's notice that there is a problem and they intend to withhold their rent until it is fixed.

5.) If my landlord won't hire a repairman, may I – and then change the landlord?

Not immediately. An order from a judge is required to complete repairs on your own and then deduct those costs from your rent.

6.) Do I have to get everything in writing?

No. But you should try to get as many provisions as possible written into your lease agreement. A lease is a contract, so it should be a detailed as possible. Savvy tenants are wise to get their appliances, utilities, cancellation clauses, and such in writing. Smart landlords who want to avoid disputes should be eager to hash it all out.

7.) Do renters have obligations?

Absolutely, yes. Tenants must pay their rent on time. They must also keep their rental unit clean and safe. (That provision also applies to visitors.) Tenants who do not comply could face eviction.

 

LINKS:

Florida Bar Consumer Tips:
http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBConsum.nsf/0a92a6dc28e76ae58525700a005d0d53/e21a25a8c288bed98525740800537588

Florida Int'l Univ. Guide to Rental Law:
http://www2.fiu.edu/~caj/landlordtenantinformation.htm

The Law Itself
http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/Chapter83/All

 

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