Time to Grow Up

How do you get your grown children out of your house?  Typically when they get served they leave. So you raised your baby, sent him off to college, and now he is back and will not move out of your house.  With some offspring, that time to grow up is more difficult than with others.  With some, you have to get the law involved. Action for Unlawful Detainer & Lawful Entry is a court order that says you have the right of possession to your real property, and it is a legal action to evict an occupier who has no lawful right of possession, but who nonetheless has settled on your premises. Once your big bundle of joy has outgrown his welcome, filing for Unlawful Detainer asks the court to give you back possession of your property.  It gives your cherished offspring a legal invitation to leave the nest. For your hatchling with a failure to launch, Action for Unlawful Detainer & Lawful Entry could be the nudge he needs.  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss the details of your situation and plan a resolution everyone can live with. Read More

Tenant Eviction

Tenant eviction is supposed to be streamlined—do not complicate it by violating your tenant’s rights. Tenant eviction is a Summary Procedure, meaning it takes a shorter time than a regular lawsuit.  While a regular lawsuit gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days.  Do not try to speed up the process by changing the locks or cutting off the utilities.  And let the sheriff’s deputy do his job in serving the eviction notice. I love the smell of bad landlords in the morning.  The landlord can be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater) for improper eviction.  Renters in possession have rights…even if they have not paid the rent.  If you infringe on those rights, it could be you who gets billed. Know and follow the proper procedure for tenant eviction; they are available free online at http://www.rustylaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Evictions.pdf . You can also read the entire Landlord/Tenant statute at http://www.rustylaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Chapter83.pdf . Read More

Hot Rental

John Gorrie’s marble statue stands in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. not because he saw Medusa—he invented air conditioning.  As a physician, he felt there was a medical need for chilled air when he came to Florida in 1833, and by 1851 he had a patent for an ice machine.  While air conditioning has made a huge impact on Florida real estate, A/C does not extend to renters’ rights. Renters are entitled to live in units with running water, electricity, garbage service, working elevators (if applicable), refrigeration, gas (if applicable), and heat, but despite Dr. Gorrie’s contribution, air-conditioning is non-essential on the list of legal requirements.  It is the hottest thing in Landlord-Tenant Law. If your air-conditioning stops working or if there are other defects with your rental unit, (1) PAY YOUR RENT ON TIME, (2) notify your landlord of the problem with a seven-day written notice sent preferably via certified mail, and (3) after seven days if the landlord has not fixed the problem, then you can withhold rent or leave tenancy; however, it is usually best to work out a deal. Good news for renters:  the courthouse is air-conditioned.  If you do wind up in court with […] Read More

Low Cost Legal Resources

The Sixth Amendment gives you a Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  But what if you are poor, elderly, disabled, and your landlord has locked you out?  Or you are facing home foreclosure and do not know what to do?  There are good legal resources in St. Johns County which may be able to help you in a civil matter at little or no cost to you.  These include the following resources: St. Johns Housing Partnership (SJHP) SJHP is non-profit agency whose services are offered to the public regardless of income.  They work with borrowers living in million dollar homes as well as those eligible for Legal Aid.  Their HUD certified counselors are sensitive to what their clients are going through, and they are knowledgeable and experienced negotiating with lenders on a loan modification that works for everybody.  SJHP does a background check on their clients without waiting for the bank to do one.  They get good results because they do the homework ahead of time.  There is no way to predict how long a mortgage modification will take, but you have a better chance to a permanent solution with SJHP. To learn more about St. Johns […] Read More

Tracking Your Rental Security Deposit

Have you checked the couch?  Maybe behind the stove?  When you move out of a rental unit, where does your security deposit go?  One of two things may legally happen: Thing 1: Landlords have fifteen days to return your security deposit (giving them time to thoroughly inspect the property and decide if there are any damages beyond “normal wear and tear”). OR Thing 2: Landlords have thirty days to tell you they are keeping your deposit.  They have to notify you in writing within thirty days after you move out to let you know if they are keeping all or part of your deposit. If you disagree with the landlord keeping all or part of your deposit, you have fifteen days to object by notifying your landlord in writing (Certified Mail, return receipt requested). Remember, if you want to leave early, you can move out, but you may lose your deposit…and you may still be responsible for rent after you move out. Make sure you leave your forwarding address with your landlord. Otherwise it is difficult to get your money or a notice of what happened to your money!   Read More

Renting a Foreclosure Property?

The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act says that a new owner who takes over the property after foreclosure may have to honor the terms of the rental agreement, including the length of the rental agreement if it is a valid lease; however, if the new owner plans to live at the property as a primary residence, the tenant may be able to have a 90-day notice before being evicted. The key factual issues are (1) valid rental agreement (month-to-month or a lease) and (2) if the new owner is going to live in it.  And of course, (3) rent must be paid. Even if you lease a place the same day it sells on the courthouse steps (provided it was a bona fide lease and you pay your rent) the new owner has to honor the terms, or at least give a 90-day notice from the title transfer date (not the foreclosure sale date). That is good news for renters, but only through the end of this year.  The provisions were a temporary help for tenants during the foreclosure crisis.  The Act is scheduled to expire December 31, 2014. For more information on the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of […] Read More

Why Pay Rent on a Foreclosure Home?

Say you are a tenant and you have received a foreclosure notice on the property where you live, why should you continue paying rent if the owner is not paying the mortgage?  A tenant in possession who pays rent has certain possessory rights to the property, rights which may extend longer than you think. Renters have rights, even in foreclosure. So long as you have a bona fide lease (you pay fair market value and you are not leasing from your mother or someone else closely related) and you are paying rent, you may be able to finish the term of the lease, or at least have 90 days to move. The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act says that a new owner who takes over the property after foreclosure may have to honor the terms of the rental agreement, including the length of the rental agreement if it is a valid lease; however, if the new owner plans to live at the property as a primary residence, the tenant may be able to have a 90-day notice before being evicted. Note that the countdown clock of the eviction starts on the day title is transferred—not the foreclosure sale date.  Often […] Read More

April Fools

It is the first of the month, do you know where your rent is?  Renters have to pay rent…it is a simple concept, easy to remember.  The renter pays the rent and the landlord collects the rent and allows the renter to live on the property.  If that relationship breaks down, landlords have a specific period of notification, with action and reaction time, allowing for checks and balances to be brought current before the matter goes further.  As a landlord, do not be an April Fool when it comes to tenant eviction; follow proper tenant eviction procedures. If rent is due Sunday and not paid, then Monday, you can give a Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit (pay or get out).  The notice must include only the rent that is due and no late fees unless “late fees” are considered “rent” in the agreement. After Thursday, if the rent has not been paid, then you can terminate the lease, but you have to file a Complaint for Eviction with the court.  Tenants in possession do have rights. Landlords have rights too.  The law provides a “summary” or shortened procedure for evictions.  You can choose to file a Complaint for Eviction […] Read More

Legal Aid in Civil Matters

In a criminal case you have a Constitutional Right to an attorney, but what if you are poor, elderly, disabled, and your landlord has locked you out?  The Sixth Amendment does not cover your court cost and appoint legal counsel to assist you for a landlord-tenant dispute.  That is where Legal Aid plays a vital role in providing legal services for civil cases. St. Johns County Legal Aid is a local non-profit agency that primarily serves the most vulnerable demographic of our population—the poor, the elderly, and the disabled—aiding awareness of legal rights and options in matters of debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, family law, and many other civil subjects.  Their motto is “A Wealth of Justice for Those Who Have Neither.” If you think you cannot afford an attorney in a civil case, contact your local Legal Aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of pamphlets you may find helpful.  You can visit their office at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine, or call to make an appointment at (904) 827-9921.  The Legal Aid website is http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/home.html.   Read More

People’s Law School – March 11: ‘Landlord / Tenant Law’

The People’s Law School is in session again this spring, with a series of legal lectures presented by St. Johns County Legal Aid.  The March 11th topic is “Landlord / Tenant Laws.”  This FREE one-hour class starts at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library (6670 US 1 South, St. Augustine, Florida). The People’s Law School schedule for the rest of the spring is as follows: March 18 – Foreclosure Defense of Homesteads April 1 – How Can You Avoid the Need for Guardianship? April 8 – Is Probate a Dirty Word? April 15 – Spouse in a Nursing Home—Do You Have to Go Broke? April 22 – Should You Ever Put Someone Else’s name on Your Deed? May 13 – Do You Need a Will?  What If You Die Without One? All classes are free and start at 4:00 p.m. at the Southeast Branch Library.  For more information on St. Johns County Legal Aid and their services, go to www.jaxlegalaid.org. Read More