How Does Post-Irma Damage Affect Tenants and Landlords?

Florida law requires landlords to comply with all applicable building, housing and health codes that can vary by county,

ORLANDO, Fla. – Sept. 15, 2017 – Florida law requires landlords to comply with all applicable building, housing and health codes that can vary by county, according to Meredith Caruso, manager of member legal communications for Florida Realtors.

However, Caruso says that there's no simple or standard answer to the question "What rights do tenants and landlords have if Hurricane Irma damaged their rental unit?" since the answer could depend on terms within the lease.

If no applicable code exists, a Florida landlord must maintain the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components in "good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads," and the plumbing in "reasonable working condition." However, the landlord's obligations under this subsection (83.051(1)(b)) may be altered or modified in writing with respect to a single-family home or duplex. It is therefore important to look at the lease language!

Additionally, unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex (i.e. a condo or apartment) shall at all times during the tenancy make "reasonable provisions" for … "the clean and safe condition of common areas" … "garbage removal and outside receptacles therefore" … "functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water."

Per Florida Statute 83.56, Termination of a Rental Agreement, assuming the landlord is unable to comply with obligations under the lease or the law due to "causes beyond the control of the landlord and the landlord has made and continues to make every reasonable effort to correct the failure to comply," the rental agreement may be terminated or altered as follows:

  1. If the issue renders the dwelling unit untenantable and the tenant vacates, the tenant shall not be liable for the rent during the period the dwelling unit remains uninhabitable.
  2. If the issue doesn't completely render the dwelling unit untenantable and the tenant stays/continues to occupy the property, the rent for the period of noncompliance shall be reduced by an amount "proportionate to the loss of rental value caused by the noncompliance."

Florida Statute 83.63, Casualty Damage, deals with rental units that are damaged or destroyed "other than by the wrongful or negligent acts of the tenant." If "the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and immediately vacate the premises."

If the tenant only vacates part of the premises – the part rendered unusable by the casualty – then the rent "shall be reduced by the fair rental value of that part of the premises damaged or destroyed."

© 2017 Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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