Stop Paying Rent?
Some of us have the pleasure of a great landlord and living environment - they quickly respond to problems, and pretty much have a "live and let live" attitude. Others of us, not so much. But what exactly are the renter's rights when stuck in a horrible situation, with a non-responsive landlord? Can we stop paying rent?
As a Tampa Real Estate Attorney, I have seen too many tenants in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota County who are sued for eviction because they chose to stop paying rent to try and force the landlord to make repairs to their rental apartment or rental home.
In the state of Florida, we are under no obligation to remain in an unsafe, unsanitary living space. But that does not mean we take whatever form of justice we deem appropriate in our dealings with our landlords. If the lessor fails to do something required by Florida law the lessee cannot decide to stop paying rent as a way to retaliate.
So what is the tenant's recourse? In simple terms: notice and documentation. Florida law requires that if a landlord has failed to maintain the premises in the manner required by the lease agreement, or required by health and safety codes, then the tenant should provide written notice to the landlord of the necessary repairs and give the landlord 7 days to make repairs or fix the situation. If the landlord fails to fix the issue(s)or fails to try to fix the issue(s) within the required time, the tenant may terminate the lease agreement, or then withhold the rent. The tenant can also sue the landlord for any other damages incurred (i.e.: personal property damage, moving costs, attorney fees, etc.).
Under Florida law, the landlord must provide for:Extermination of pests (insects, mice, reptiles, etc.), garbage removal, and functioning facilities for heat during the winter months, running water, and hot water amongst other things. Please remember: the tenant cannot withhold rent from the landlord due to the landlord's failure to fix issues within the rented apartment or house.In fact, if the lessee withholds rent in this situation, the landlord has the right to terminate the lease agreement and sue for eviction and unpaid rent.
Home indeed is where the heart is. Well, more importantly, it should be a place of peace and enjoyment. If you are facing a situation of dangerous, unhealthy, or hostile living conditions due to a conflict or disconnect on the part of your landlord, it is best to communicate with them in writing - providing them notice of what needs to be done to correct the situation, and giving them 7 days to fix the problem(s). After that time has elapsed, and nothing has improved or changed then it's time to terminate the rental agreement. But under no circumstances should a renter withhold rent.
For more information on Landlord / Tenant issues, or renter's rights issues, or to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options, please contact our firm at: 813-774-5737 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Shawn M. Yesner, Esq.
Shawn M. Yesner, Esq., is the founder of Yesner Law, P.L., a Tampa based boutique law firm that handles foreclosure defense, loan modification, construction liens, landlord/tenant disputes and counsels consumers on debt settlement, for clients in Tampa, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Beach, Treasure Island, Medeira Beach, Reddington Beach, Kenneth City, Gulfport, Seminole, Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Oldsmar, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, Lutz, Westchase, Carrolwood, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, and other areas that comprise the greater Tampa Bay area.
Yesner Law, P.L. would like to thank Jerrika Jones, law student at Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, for her contributions to this article.