Florida Fair Housing Act
As discussed earlier, the Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits housing discrimination based on seven protected classes. In conjunction with that federal law, Florida Statute Title XLIV, Chapter 760, Section 20, known as the Florida Fair Housing Act, protects those same seven classes: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. Marital status, age, and occupation are not covered.
The following acts are discriminatory and prohibited by the Florida Fair Housing Act:
- A prospective tenant is told on the telephone that an apartment rents for a certain price and is currently available but then, when meeting the landlord face to face, is told the rental price is higher or the apartment is no longer available when it is still available.
- A condominium association refuses to provide handicapped parking for a person with a disability.
- A landlord enforces a no pets policy when the prospective tenant has a service dog.
- A homeowner refuses to sell property to a member of any of the protected classes.
- A real estate licensee encourages a buyer to purchase a particular house because it is located in a specific religious community.
- A landlord refuses to rent to a single woman who is pregnant.
In Florida, someone who believes he or she has been the victim of housing discrimination may file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and/or HUD within 1 year of the alleged discrimination. Further, he or she may file a civil lawsuit within 2 years of the alleged discrimination. If the court finds in favor of the complainant, a fine up to $10,000 may be imposed on a first-time violator or up to $25,000 on a repeat violator within the previous 5 years.
Florida Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Implementation Act
The Florida Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Implementation Act was established to incorporate the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into Florida law. The statute adopts the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and incorporates the standards into the Florida Accessibility Code for Building Construction.
The Act also mandates that all new residential buildings, structures, and facilities in the state must provide at least one bathroom on grade level with a door opening of at least 29 inches and with wheelchair-accessible sinks and that any barriers at common or emergency doors must be removed.
The Act covers several other accessibility issues such as parking, building remodeling and conversions, grab-rail requirements in hotel and motel bathrooms, and accessibility to levels above the ground floor.
Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
Overview. The Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act applies to the rental of a residential unit and provides regulations for all aspects of rental occupancies. It does not apply to rent-to-own contracts where required funds have been paid. Nor does it apply to transient occupancy in public lodging or occupancy in a cooperative unit or condominium unit.
Under the Act, unconscionable (unjust or one-sided) provisions within a rental agreement are not enforceable. If a rental agreement does not specify the duration of the tenancy, then the duration is determined to be the length of residency between rental payments. For example, if the rent payment is due each month, then the tenancy is for one month at a time.
Deposits and advance rents. Landlords may require a security deposit and advanced rent payments (typically the last month’s rent). In Florida, there is no limit on the amount of deposit landlords can charge, but they must comply with the Act in how they handle deposits and advanced rent payments.
For payments other than the first month’s rent, the landlord is required to comply with one of the following:
- hold the funds in a separate non-interest-bearing escrow or bank account within Florida for the benefit of the tenant, with no commingling with the landlord’s own funds, no pledging the funds as security for a debt, and no using the funds until they are actually due to the landlord
- hold the funds in a separate interest-bearing escrow or bank account within Florida for the benefit of the tenant, with the landlord choosing to pay the tenant at least 75% of the annual interest rate payable on the account or 5% simple interest each year; again, with no commingling with the landlord’s own funds, no pledging the funds as security for a debt, and no using the funds until they are actually due to the landlord
- along with a Florida-licensed surety company, execute and post a surety bond with the circuit court clerk in the same county where the rental property is located for an amount equal to the total funds collected or $50,000, whichever is less; and pay the tenant 5% simple interest each year
If the landlord changes where the funds are being held after the notice is sent, he or she must notify the tenant in writing within 30 days of the change. The notice must
- be given in person or mailed to the tenant
- include the name and address of the bank where the funds are being held or state a surety bond has been posted
- indicate if the tenant is entitled to interest, and
- contain the following disclosure:
Your lease requires payment of certain deposits. The landlord may transfer advance rents to the landlord’s account as they are due and without notice. When you move out, you must give the landlord your new address so that the landlord can send you notices regarding your deposit. The landlord must mail you notice, within 30 days after you move out, of the landlord’s intent to impose a claim against the deposit. If you do not reply to the landlord stating your objection to the claim within 15 days after receipt of the landlord’s notice, the landlord will collect the claim and must mail you the remaining deposit, if any.
If the landlord fails to timely mail you notice, the landlord must return the deposit but may later file a lawsuit against you for damages. If you fail to timely object to a claim, the landlord may collect from the deposit, but you may later file a lawsuit claiming a refund.
You should attempt to informally resolve any dispute before filing a lawsuit. Generally, the party in whose favor a judgment is rendered will be awarded costs and attorney fees payable by the losing party.
This disclosure is basic. Please refer to Part II of Chapter 83, Florida Statutes, to determine your legal rights and obligations.
This notification and disclosure requirement applies only to landlords of five or more dwelling units.
Landlord’s obligation to maintain premises. Landlords are required to comply with building, housing, and health codes in maintaining the rental property. If none of these codes exist, the landlord is required to keep the premises in good repair and maintain systems such as plumbing and heating in working condition.
The Act specifically states that window screens must be installed and kept in good repair, pests must be exterminated, and garbage is to be removed with outside receptacles provided. The landlord must also install smoke detectors in single family or duplex rental homes.
The landlord may charge the tenant for garbage removal, water, fuel, or utilities if included in the lease. The landlord is not responsible for conditions caused by negligence or wrongful acts of the tenant, family members, or guests.
Tenant’s obligations. The tenant is obligated to comply with applicable building, housing, and health codes. The tenant must keep the premises clean and sanitary, including removing garbage, cleaning plumbing fixtures, and operating the dwelling’s systems in a reasonable manner. Tenants are also obligated to conduct themselves so as not to disturb neighbors and refrain from damaging or removing any part of the premises that belongs to the landlord.
Landlord’s access to premises. The landlord is permitted by law to enter the rental unit from time to time for inspections, repairs, alterations, supplying services, or show the unit to prospective tenants or buyers. The landlord is required to give the tenant at least 12 hours’ notice prior to entry for repairs and may only enter between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The landlord may enter the premises for any of the above reasons only with the tenant’s consent, if the tenant unreasonably withholds consent, or in case of an emergency.
If the tenant’s rent is current and the tenant notifies the landlord of an intended absence from the unit, the landlord may not enter the unit except with the tenant’s permission or for an emergency.
Vacating premises. A tenant planning to vacate the rental premises must give the landlord a 7-day written notice that includes an address where the tenant can be reached.
When the lease terminates and the tenant vacates the premises, the landlord is required to return the security deposit and pay any earned interest within 15 days. However, if the landlord intends to impose a claim on the deposit, written notice of the intention and the reason for the claim must be sent to the tenant’s last known mailing address by certified mail within 30 days of the tenant vacating the premises.
Failure to send the notice within 30 days will result in the landlord forfeiting the right to impose a claim on the deposit. The landlord is prohibited from seeking a setoff against the deposit but may file legal action for damages after the deposit is returned.
If the landlord imposes a claim on the deposit and complies with notice requirements, the landlord may deduct the amount of the claim from the total deposit and then return the balance to the tenant within 30 days of the intention notice. The tenant may file an objection to the claim within 15 days of receiving the intention notice. If the tenant does not meet the timeline for objection, he or she may still seek damages in a separate legal action.
Termination of rental agreements by the tenant. The tenant may terminate the rental agreement if the landlord fails to maintain the premises as required by law or fails to comply with the provisions in the rental agreement. To do so, the tenant needs to deliver a written 7-day notice to the landlord specifying the noncompliance and stating the intention to terminate. If the landlord does not correct the noncompliance within the 7 days, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.
However, if the noncompliance issues are out of the landlord’s control and the tenant does not want to terminate, the law allows the following:
- If the noncompliance issue makes the unit uninhabitable, the tenant may vacate and not be held liable for paying rent while the unit is uninhabitable.
- If the unit is habitable with the noncompliance issue and the tenant stays in the unit, the rent is to be reduced while the unit is out of compliance. The reduction is to be by an amount in proportion to the loss of rental value caused by the noncompliance.
Termination of rental agreements by the landlord. The landlord may terminate the rental agreement if the tenant fails to comply with tenant obligations or fails to comply with the provisions of the agreement. Just as when the tenant terminates the agreement, the landlord must deliver a written 7-day notice to the tenant specifying the noncompliance and stating the intention to terminate. If the tenant does not correct the noncompliance within the 7 days, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement.
However, if the tenant’s noncompliance is such that the tenant should not be given an opportunity to correct it or if the noncompliance has previously been the subject of a written notice within the past 12 months, the landlord may terminate without giving the tenant time to correct the problem. To do so, the landlord is to deliver a written notice to the tenant that specifies the noncompliance and states the landlord’s intent to terminate the agreement. The tenant has 7 days from the date of the notice to vacate the rental dwelling.
If the tenant’s noncompliance is nonpayment of rent, the landlord must give the tenant written notice of the requirement to pay the rent or vacate the premises within 3 business days. If the tenant still does not pay the rent after the 3 days, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement. The notice must state the amount of rent that is overdue and is to be mailed, delivered, or left at the rental unit. If the tenant vacates the premises, the landlord must follow procedures for notifying the tenant of the return of all or part of the security deposit. If the tenant does not vacate the premises, the landlord will need to start an eviction.
Eviction procedure. A landlord who needs to remove a tenant from the rental unit must follow the procedure mandated by Florida statute.
- After serving the tenant notice to vacate the premises, the landlord must give the tenant 3 business days to vacate for not paying rent or 7 days to vacate for other noncompliance issues.
- If the tenant does not vacate in the allowed timeframe, the landlord, the landlord’s attorney, or the landlord’s agent must file a complaint in the local county court that describes the rental unit and the reason it needs to be recovered. A copy of the complaint is delivered to the tenant by the local sheriff’s department.
- If the tenant files a response to the complaint, the court’s clerk will notify the tenant that he or she has 5 business days to pay the rent into the court’s registry.
- If the tenant fails to respond to the court’s notice within the 5 business days, the landlord is entitled to an immediate default judgment for removal of the tenant without further notice or hearing.
- After the judgment has been issued in favor of the landlord, the clerk will issue a writ to the sheriff instructing the sheriff to post a 24-hour notice on the premises and then give possession of the unit to the landlord.
- After the sheriff signs the writ of possession, the landlord or the landlord’s agent may remove the tenant’s personal property remaining on the premises. The landlord may have the sheriff stand by to keep the peace while locks are changed and personal items are removed. The tenant may not hold the sheriff, the landlord, or the landlord’s agent liable for any loss or damage to the property after it is removed.
If the eviction is a result of nonpayment of rent and the court finds in favor of the landlord, the court will enter a money judgment against the tenant that includes the amount of rent due and may include attorney’s fees and costs. Until all money due is paid, the landlord will hold a lien against the all of the tenant’s property, except beds, bedclothes, and wearing apparel (F.S. 83.09).