EXPLANATION OF THE CHANGES TO THE LANDLORD-TENANT ACT updated.

EXPLANATION OF THE CHANGES TO THE LANDLORD-TENANT ACT updated.

  • Posted: Oct 08, 2015
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EXPLANATION OF THE CHANGES TO THE LANDLORD-TENANT ACT updated. by: NationalEvictions.com Governor Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 77, the most extensive change in over 20 years to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act found in Florida Statutes, Section 83 Part II. The changes, additions and subtractions help to clarify some of the greyer areas of law that have developed over the years, and give guidance to property managers, attorneys and judges. The landlord-tenant relationship is affected by the lease agreement, statutory law and decisions by judges creating case law when the statute or lease is unclear. In the residential setting, most cases are decided in county court. If a judge rules in a way that may not be in accordance with the law, other judges often will follow suit. This creates situations where in one county or circuit the judges rule one way, and in another county or circuit, the judges rule an opposing way. Often judges in the same county or circuit will rule in opposing ways. Inconsistencies create a problem of uncertainty for property managers, and since under Florida law, the prevailing party in a Landlord-Tenant action is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees, the stakes can get extremely high for all parties involved. The Landlord-Tenant Act in Florida is extremely fair, and for the most part clear and concise, but nothing is perfect. The changes to the law clarify a number of areas of the law which will be examined here. Just because the law has changed, we must warn property managers that not all judges will follow the law, especially in the beginning, and some still will interpret the law in a way that you and your attorney may disagree with. When this occurs, there is an option of filing an appeal to a higher court, but due to the expense and time involved, this is not usually done. This article will explain the new law as it pertains to the multi-family manager. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2013, and the new security deposit disclosure wording must be placed in all leases beginning on January 1, 2014. ATTORNEY’S FEES Prior Law – The Landlord-Tenant Act provides that the prevailing party in a case seeking to enforce the provisions of a rental agreement or the Landlord-Tenant Act is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. In some cases, residents would be injured on a property, a slip and fall for example, and the attorney for the injured party would seek attorney’s fees. Personal injury law does not provide that the injured person receives attorney’s fees, but this grey area was being exploited by some personal injury attorneys to ask for and receive attorney’s fees. New Law- The new language clarifies that attorney’s fees will NOT be awarded in an action in which a person was injured on a rental property, AND a lease cannot be modified to allow management to attempt to force residents to waive away their rights to attorney’s fees in non-personal injury cases. SECURITY DEPOSITS AND ADVANCE RENT Prior Law – It was unclear in prior law whether management had to notify the resident if a bank’s name had changed, was sold, or one bank merged with another. That bank would be the one holding the deposits. New Law – Management is now clearly not required to notify the resident of a bank change, merger or bank sale. Prior Law – Management was required to provide the resident with a section of Florida Statutes 83.49(3), explaining timing and procedures that governed management and residents if management were to make a claim upon the deposit, return the deposit, or if the resident disputed claims made against the deposit. New Law- A brand new disclosure is now required in the lease for all leases beginning January 1, 2014. Until that time, you can continue to use the old law wording, or you can update your lease right now. The new disclosure clarifies that you do not have to notify the resident if you are using the advance rent when it becomes due, clarifies that management has 30 days from the time of resident “move out” to send the Notice of Intention to Impose the Claim on Security Deposit, and encourages management and residents to try to informally settle disputes, and if not, either party can sue as before. Basically the procedures regarding security deposits have not changed, just the new disclosure is required. If a resident disputes, the new law still does not clarify if management is permitted to retain the “disputed” amount, or if the disputed amount can be disbursed or put into your company’s operating account. Prior Law – If management failed to send out the Notice of Intention to Impose Claim on Security Deposit in time or properly, it was unclear if management had to refund the entire amount of the deposit or could “set it off” against the amount the resident may have owed and return the rest to the resident. New Law – It is clear now that if management fails to send out the Notice of Intention to Impose Claim on Security Deposit in time or properly, the management MUST return 100% of the deposit, but still can sue the resident in court and get a judgment for the underlying claim in the event management went to court and prevailed. Prior Law – Nothing addresses the safety or security of a resident’s security deposit on a sale of a property, and often the old owner or manager kept it; hence the resident lost it with no recourse against the long gone prior owner. New Law – There is a re buttable presumption that the new owner or management received the deposit from the old owner or management, and this presumption is limited to one month’s rent. SCREENS Prior Law – Management was responsible for screens. This created a problem, as often the screens were damaged or destroyed by the resident, guest, child or pet, and…

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