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Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

mattThe “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” governs the relationship between landlords and tenants when they enter into a residential rental agreement.  On June 7, 2003, Governor Scott approved CS/HB 77 which serves to change certain laws in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act as of July 1st.  Below are three of the major changes that recently became law. 

Non-Waiver of Attorney Fees:  Under Florida law, the general rule is that parties are responsible for their own attorney’s fees unless authorized by statute or by agreement of the parties.  Based on Florida Statute 83.48, the law authorizes a prevailing party in a landlord/tenant action to recover fees from the non-prevailing party.  This is a very powerful tool for both landlords and tenants in that parties are often financially precluded from seeking the assistance of an attorney when they know that their legal expenses are never going to be reimbursed.  Over the past several years, individuals have sought to negate Florida Statute 83.48 by inserting language into rental agreements whereby all parties would waive their rights to fees.  In order to combat such a practice, the new law provides that the right to claim attorney’s fees may not be waived in a lease agreement.

Termination of Rental Agreement – Noncompliance:  Under Florida Statute 83.56, tenant evictions may be based on either a monetary default or a non-monetary default. Nonmonetary defaults fall into two categories: those that may not be fixed and those that may.  If the noncompliance is of a nature that the tenant should not be given an opportunity to cure it, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement, and the tenant shall have 7 days from the date that notice is delivered to vacate the premises.  However, if the noncompliance is of a nature that the tenant should be given an opportunity to cure it, the landlord may deliver a written notice to the tenant specifying the noncompliance, including a notice that if the noncompliance is not corrected within 7 days from the date the written notice is delivered, the landlord shall terminate the rental agreement.  In the past, tenants have argued that Florida law imposes an obligation upon the landlord to send them yet another notice of non-compliance each time there is an issue.  The new law clarifies this issue by stating that the tenancy is subject to termination, without further warning, if the curable conduct is repeated within twelve months.

Acceptance of Partial Rent:  Under current law, if a landlord accepts partial rent from a tenant with full knowledge that such payment is not for the full amount due, the landlord waives the right to terminate the rental agreement or to bring  a civil action.  This rule was always troublesome for landlords in that it seemed to go against common sense to refuse a payment when rent was due.  The law also needlessly discouraged landlords from negotiating partial payments with a tenant.  Fortunately, under the new law, a landlord does not waive the right to terminate a rental agreement or to bring a civil action for noncompliance by accepting partial rent. If accepted, the landlord must provide the tenant with a dated receipt for the partial payment and, if eviction is sought, place the partial payment in the court’s registry, or supply another 3-day notice of eviction.

The three aforementioned changes are but a few of the updates which came into law on July 1st.  If you have any questions about CS/HB 77, or if you would like to consult with an attorney about a landlord/tenant issue, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 386-257-1222.