Rental laws are governed at the federal, state, and local city or county level. Each level inherits the statutes set forth from the other. In other words, state laws include federal laws, and county or city laws include both state and federal laws. For the most part, each state sets forth the majority of the statutes governing rent. At the federal level, the majority of statutes govern anti-discrimination laws set forth in the Fair Housing Act. State laws may extend the Fair Housing Act protections to those not specifically named at the federal level and city or county laws can do the same and often do.
Here, we will discuss all the rental laws that are relevant to the State of Florida. You will find information that is relevant to both landlords and tenants. It will hopefully help you successfully resolve disputes that may arise.
> Anti-Discrimination Laws
> Selecting the First Qualified Candidate
> Official Laws Relating to Florida Landlord/Tenant Rules and Regulations
> Florida Laws Regarding Security Deposits
> Florida Statues Regarding Rent
> Florida Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions
> Notice of Terminating a Lease with No Fixed End Date
> Landlord’s Obligation and Implied Warranty of Habitability under Florida Law
> Landlord/Tenant Disputes Under Florida Law
> Notice of Entry
> Landlord Disclosures
> State Associations and Resources
Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
The federal government lays out the basic laws governing civil rights when it comes to housing. These can be found in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII is also called the Fair Housing Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act extends protections to those who have disabilities.
According to the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of:
- Race or color,
- National origin,
- Creed or religion,
- Sex or gender,
- Familial status,
- Or disability.
The types of actions these laws prohibit include (but are not limited to):
- Discriminatory language in rental applications or advertisements,
- Charging a tenant security deposits on their children,
- Denying a tenant’s application on the basis of a protected characteristic,
- Refusing to allow an individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation,
- Refusing to waive a no-pets policy for a tenant with a service animal,
- Providing unequal terms of lease conditions on the basis of children or a protected characteristic,
- Segregating tenants on the basis of a protected characteristic.
In addition, it is unlawful to deny an application or say that a rental unit is taken when it is not in on the basis of a protected characteristic.
No-Pets Policy and Service Animals
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits landlords from denying a rental application or charging a security deposit on the basis of a tenant’s need for a bona fide service animal. “Emotional support” or “therapy” animals are not considered services animals by law. Service animals must perform some specific function. A landlord is entitled to ask for proof that the animal is, in fact, a service animal.
Florida Housing Discrimination Laws
Florida Statutes governing housing discrimination can be found in Fla. Stat. §§ 760.20-760.60.
In some states, protected classes are extended to include sexual orientation and gender nonconformity. Florida does not extend protection specifically based on those characteristics. It is, however, unclear at present whether or not the prohibition on discriminating against someone based on their sex or gender protects the LGBT community by default.
Individual cities like Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Jacksonville may extend housing discrimination laws to cover the LGBT community and others. Landlords are advised to check with the individual cities and counties in which they own property.
In order to avoid unnecessary lawsuits, landlords are advised to select the first qualified applicant from the pool. By making their decision-making process as transparent as possible, they avoid opening themselves up to lawsuits alleging housing discrimination.
- Fla. Stat. Title VI Chapter 83 – Florida Rental Laws: Residential tenancies can be found under Part II.
- Rights and Duties of Landlords and Tenants consumer pamphlet
Florida laws regarding security deposits can be found in §§ 83.49. Landlords must place the security deposit into a separate account (it does not need to be interest-bearing). If a landlord intends on making a deduction from the security deposit, they must present the tenant with an itemized list of damages.
In addition, landlords have 15 to 60 days after the tenant has vacated the property to return the tenant’s security deposit.
Within 30 days of receiving a security deposit, the landlord must present the tenant with the following information:
- The kind (interest-bearing or non-interest-bearing) of account the funds will be kept in;
- The account depository’s name;
- Interest rate.
Landlords who collect a security deposit must include the language of §§ 83.49(3) in the lease.
The majority of Florida statutes that pertain specifically to rent can be found in §§ 83.46.
According to Florida statutes, rent is payable at the beginning of each rent period, which is the beginning of the month unless otherwise agreed upon in the lease. If the lease does not specify the duration of the agreement, then it will be considered month-to-month if rent is paid monthly and week-to-week if rent is paid weekly and so on.
Other than that, Florida does not have many relevant laws concerning rent. Landlords and tenants are free to agree to their terms in the lease.
Landlords may charge returned check fees based on the following values (68.065):
- If the value of the check is less than $50, the landlord may charge a fee of $25.
- If the value of the check is between $50 and $300, the landlord may charge a fee of $30.
- If the value of the check is over $300, the landlord may charge either 5% of the value of the check or $40, whichever is higher.
Florida does not go out of its way to say what can be in a lease agreement. It does, however, list provisions (83.47) that may not be in a lease agreement or would be unenforceable under Florida law. These include:
- The landlord may not require the tenant to “waive rights” or legal remedies allowed by law;
- The landlord may not absolve himself of liability or other legal remedies available to the tenant.
In addition, the court may void any provision of the lease that it finds to be “unconscionable” (83.45).
Leases that are signed with no fixed end date require that either party must give notice before terminating the tenancy. According to these statutes (83.56), either party must give 60 days notice if the lease is year-to-year. For a quarter-to-quarter tenancy, either party must give 30 days notice. If the tenancy is month-to-month, either party must give 15 days notice. If the tenancy is week-to-week, either party must give seven days notice.
According to Florida law (83.51), the landlord has an obligation to maintain the premises. This is in contrast to the tenant’s duty to maintain the dwelling unit. By law, the landlord must:
- Comply with building, housing, and health codes;
- (Or) where no codes exist, maintain the roof, doors, windows, floors, steps, porches, walls, plumbing, and other components of the house necessary for its use as a dwelling;
- See to the extermination of rats, insects, wood-destroying insects, bed bugs, or other infestations that are present on the premises;
- Ensure that there are functioning locks and keys for the doors;
- Ensure that common areas are both clean and safe;
- Ensure that there are adequate receptacles for garbage;
- Ensure that there is adequate heat, water, and hot water;
- Ensure that there are smoke detectors on the premises.
In the event that the landlord must hire an exterminator, the tenant can be asked to vacate the premises for a period of four days or less. The landlord must give the tenant seven days notice before initiating the extermination. While the landlord is not liable for damages to the tenant, the landlord must abate rent during that period.
If any of these conditions are not met, the tenant has certain remedies but they must follow the protocol set forth under Florida law. The tenant must inform the landlord (in writing) that there are repairs that need to be made to the rental unit. They must then give the landlord 20 days to make repairs. If the landlord has not made repairs after 20 days then the tenant is allowed by law to deduct rent (83.201).
There is no statute regarding whether or not a tenant may repair the damage themselves and return the premises to a habitable standard. Tenants are advised to discuss the situation with their landlord before making repairs themselves.
In the event that a dispute breaks out between the landlord and the tenant, the winning party is entitled to collect attorney’s fees. If the tenant breaches the lease agreement and the landlord must initiate an eviction, the landlord has no obligation to attempt to mitigate damages to the tenant. In other words, the landlord does not have to make an effort to re-rent the property for the duration of the lease and the tenant would be on the hook for paying for the amount of money they agreed to pay. On the other hand, the landlord may choose to take possession of the property and re-rent it. The landlord has their choice of remedies in this regard. For more information, see 83.595.
In the event that a tenant has not paid rent, the landlord can give the tenant a 3-day notice to remedy or quit (83.56(3)). If the tenant has violated a term of the lease, the landlord can issue a seven-day notice to remedy or quit (83.56(2)). There are some lease violations for which the landlord is allowed to terminate the lease immediately and demand that the tenant vacate the premises. These include, but are not limited to, destruction of the landlord’s property.
If a tenant is delinquent in rent or has violated some term of the lease, the landlord must initiate an eviction. Landlords may not lock the tenant out of the property, shut off utilities, or use “self-help” remedies to manage the situation. A landlord who uses these means to pressure the tenant off the property may be liable for up to three times the agreed upon rent or the tenant’s actual damages, whichever is greater. For a list of prohibited practices see 83.67.
A landlord is prohibited from retaliating against a tenant for exercising their rights. This includes filing formal complaints against the landlord for habitability problems with the rental property (83.64). If a tenant has recently filed a complaint against a landlord and the landlord initiates an eviction, raises the rent, or revokes privileges, the court will assume retaliation.
The landlord must provide the tenant with the name and address of either themselves or another who is authorized to receive notices on behalf of the property (83.50).
The landlord is expected to provide the tenant with information concern radon gas (404.056(5)).
A landlord may not deny a tenant the right to proudly display an American flag (83.67(4)).
- Direct Download for the Florida Landlord/Tenant Brochure
- Florida Courts Web Page
- Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
- Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services brochure on Landlord/Tenant laws
- Florida Attorney General
- Florida Bar Association (Landlord/Tenant information)
- Association of REALTORS
- Florida HUD
- Florida Real Estate Commission
- Miami Tenants Rights and Responsibilities Handbook
- Miami Legal Services
- Florida Law Help
This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.