If you’re moving to Florida — or are just out on your own for the first time — renting a property can be an exciting prospect. There’s a reason Florida has such wide appeal as a destination: the sunny weather, beautiful beaches, world-class attractions, and relaxed culture. But before you commit yourself to a multi-year lease agreement, you should have a solid grasp on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as those of your landlord. No one wants to end up in a situation where their home life is in jeopardy because of an overlooked rule or agreement. So let’s dig into what landlords can and cannot do when it comes to their rental properties.
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What Landlords Can Do:
First, let’s talk about the things landlords are perfectly within their rights to do, or require, as part of the lease agreement.
Landlords in Florida have the right to conduct a background check as part of screening prospective tenants. This background check could include looking into criminal history, eviction records, credit reports , and more. However, you should know that this is only allowed with the applicant’s written consent.
Most likely, you already know about this one: it’s standard procedure for landlords to require a security deposit before you move in, to compensate the landlord in case of unpaid rent or any damages to the property while you’re occupying it. A security deposit is usually one month’s rent.
Landlords have the right to schedule visits in advance and at reasonable times in order to make repairs, inspect the unit, or for various other reasons.
If it’s specified in the lease agreement, landlords can require tenants take care of garden and yard areas around their unit.
Landlords can, and usually do, require tenants to have renters insurance. The good news is that Florida renters insurance isn’t terribly expensive. The Zebra’s Ross Martin shares some numbers: if you choose State Farm as your insurer, you’d likely end up paying around $185 a year for renters’ insurance, and that’s not even the lowest quote. The average cost of renters in Florida is below the average, which is good news for tenants.
What Landlords Can’t Do:
Now that we’ve established what Florida landlords have the right to do, let’s talk about what they’re not allowed to do:
Florida landlords are prohibited by law from rejecting applicants based on discriminatory views, including race, color, religion, sex, disability, and more. This is mandated by the Fair Housing Act, and if an applicant feels they’ve been rejected unfairly, they can submit a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Rent Hazardous Properties
A landlord may not rent out a property that is hazardous or uninhabitable by a reasonable standard. Things like plumbing issues, infestations, structural problems, and more can all lead to a rental property being uninhabitable.
Enter Your Unit Without Notice
As mentioned above, landlords are within their rights to enter your property for inspection or repairs, if that entry is scheduled ahead of time. Unless it’s an emergency like a fire or they have good reason to believe the property is abandoned, they cannot enter without providing at least 12 hours advance notice.
Refuse to Make Repairs
Landlords are responsible for making reasonable repairs to the property in order to keep it livable and in compliance with the terms of the lease. However, if the damage in question was caused by the tenant, then the tenant may be responsible for the cost of the repairs.
Unjustifiably Raise the Rent
Landlords do have the right to increase rental prices to keep up with the market, but there are limits to the amount and circumstances. While Florida does not have rent control as such, there are circumstances — such as a rent stabilization ordinance, or if the property is controlled by a government agency — where the landlord is restricted from raising the rent too high.
A landlord cannot legally evict you by removing your possessions from the property and locking you out. This is grounds for legal action. If you believe you’ve been unlawfully evicted, consider consulting an attorney.
Withhold Security Deposit
Landlords are not allowed to keep your security deposit for no good reason — although many of them will try. In order to keep your deposit, a landlord must provide an itemized list of any deductions and return the rest of the deposit to you in a timely manner. This is mandated by Florida law.
It’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, to avoid being taken advantage of by a landlord. If you have problems or issues with your landlord, don’t be afraid to seek out legal advice.