Palmetto Law, PA Florida Landlord Tenant Law Firm

Landlord Property Maintenance

What Justifies Tenants Withholding?

In our opinion nothing is more complex than determining when and how to withhold rent. Looking at the relevant Florida Statutes provides tenants with very little guidance. In fact it is barely even mentioned in the statutes, tucked neatly away 83.60(b). So what do we know for sure? We know landlords have a duty to provide acceptable living conditions for their tenants as defined by Florida Statute 83. 51(1), which is discussed below. If the landlord materially fails to comply with the statute AND written notice of a tenant’s intent to withhold rent is provided to the landlord seven days prior to the tenant withholding rent THEN the tenant can withhold rent (assuming the repairs weren’t made).

Who determines materiality? Judges. How do you know what the Judge will determine to be material? You don’t. So what is a tenant to do? Document, document, document.

Landlords have specific responsibilities that depend on the type of rental unit. In general, pursuant to Florida Statute § 83.51(1), the landlord must:

  • Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing and health codes; or
  • Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes; maintain the roof, windows, screens (yearly), floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and keep the plumbing in reasonably good working condition.
  • Holding the Money and Interest

    In many situations the local code enforcement agency will become involved to weigh in whether the landlord is in compliance of standard housing code. Code enforcement is generally an excellent resource. The goal of code enforcement is to ensure that the buildings within their jurisdiction meet applicable building regulations.

    Remember, every landlord/tenant agreement (whether oral or written) has a duty of good faith. The tenant must show that the landlord knew about the conditions and failed to repair them. This isn’t a gotcha game, this is about safety and proper living conditions.

    Again, this is probably the most complicated area of landlord/tenant law and we have only briefly touched on the subject. If you are thinking about withholding rent it is most definitely best that you contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area so you can make a plan on how to do it properly.

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