Happy With What You Half

You cannot always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find…you can get part. Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean, and then betwixt them both they had a landlord who was mean!  The Sprat’s landlord had a list of naughty tricks he played on his tenants, including Grand Theft and Simple Battery. The Sprats and their landord were two parties rent apart.  The rent was in contention, and so was the landlord’s bad behavior.  The Sprats wanted possession until the end of the next month and $1,000 in legal fees.  However in court, they accepted mid-month and $500 in legal fees to be paid upon vacating the property…and they were happy with that.  It was not everything they ever wanted, but it was better than if they had let the landlord have his way without question. Court outcomes are not guaranteed. Sometimes you get what you want.  Sometimes you do not get what you want.  And sometimes you can be happy with what you half. Read More

Three Months’ Rent

First, last, and a security deposit are the typical trinity of rentals in the beginning.  In the end, the landlord could wind up paying that.  Three months’ rent or damages, whichever is greater, is the price of improper eviction, as well as the tenant’s court costs and attorney fees.  Improper eviction can really add up. Motion to Dismiss Action and Award of Attorneys Fees – It can happen in the best of rentals…and the worst. Mr. Wayne Newton (a.k.a. Mr. King of Las Vegas) is not the average renter.  Nevertheless, this famous Vegas entertainer had a falling out with his landlord over a 40 acre estate.  The landlord had purchased the property from Newton, intending to convert it into a museum attraction, and with the understanding that Mr. Newton would vacate the property.  Fifty million dollars later, the landlord now has a restraining order against him.  Newton’s landlord has to stay at least 50 feet away from Newton’s home, which could make it difficult to serve a Three-Day Notice. Using proper eviction procedure makes a difference where you stand, and how much money you stand to lose. I love the smell of bad landlords in the morning.  It is not […] Read More

Ifs, Ands, or Buts in Landlord-Tenant Relationships

Once upon a time there was a Big Bad Wolf who made a big bad mistake in evicting three little pigs from a rental unit.  The renters were pigs, to be sure, but they were entitled to proper eviction, just like any other tenant. The Big Bad Wolf was just a property manager who worked for Fairytale Flats, Inc., a Florida corporation.  Nevertheless, he huffed and he puffed and he served the Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate with several fatal defects: a. The notice stated that the three little pigs were indebted to him (the Big Bad Wolf), instead of saying:  “the three little pigs are indebted to Fairytale Flats, Inc.,” the actual owner of the premises. b. There was no indication that Big Bad Wolf was acting as a manager or in any capacity other than as an individual for himself. c. Big Bad Wolf was not the owner of the premises. And those are the ABC’s of the Ifs, Ands, or Buts that the little pigs used to wriggle out of rent AND get attorney’s fees. If the Big Bad Wolf were the proper party of interest, he could have invoked the subject matter jurisdiction of […] Read More

The Silence of the Landlords – Property Management in Court

Having Power of Attorney is not the same as going to law school for three years.  Yes, you can represent yourself in court…but do you really want to?  Furthermore, do you have the authority?  For instance in a property management corporation, you have to have an attorney involved in certain eviction situations. You can be a property manager and you can complete an eviction as a representative for somebody who owns the property…but only if the eviction is uncontested and for possession only.  If you are going for more than possession only and/or if the eviction is contested, the property manager from a corporation is not the proper party in interest to invoke the subject matter jurisdiction of the court against the tenant and cannot represent the corporation in court. I love to get to a landlord-tenant hearing and say, “Your Honor, the landlord’s representative cannot speak because he is not an attorney and he is trying to represent a corporation.”  The Judge then gets to hear a one-sided argument…my side!  After a silence of the landlord’s side, you may find that property under new management. Court is full of decorum.  You have to mind your P’s and Q’s and […] Read More

What Is Hot in Landlord-Tenant Law

Bad news for renters:  the heat is on, but the A/C does not have to be.  Renters are entitled to live in units with running water, electricity, garbage service, working elevators (if applicable), refrigeration, gas, and heat, but air conditioning is non-essential on the list of legal requirements. Humans have occupied Florida about 11,900 years without air conditioning.  If your A/C unit goes out on your rented apartment, that does not constitute an emergency on behalf of your landlord.  You may just have to sweat it out. 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 St. Johns County Courthouse is air conditioned, and I imagine the new Duval County Courthouse will be too…if we ever get into it.  So if you do wind up in court with your landlord, at least you can […] Read More

Cleaning Up Rental Relations

So your Landlord is taking you to the cleaners.  They can do that in some cases and not give back your rental deposit, especially if you do not assert your rights. You have to pay to play.  If you owe rent, you have to put that rent with the Registry of the Court, and then you can file a Notice to Dismiss.  You cannot raise your defense unless you pay your rent. If I had to leave my place this morning, I would not get my cleaning deposit back.  That is just because I have not had a chance to clean it.  If you are harassed by the property manager to get out with no time to clean the place, you may have a legitimate legal complaint against your Landlord, beyond your simple right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Landlord / Tenant cases are never as easy as they should be.  Things can get messy and sometimes it is more than the rental unit.  Renters have rights.  Landlords do too.  Consult competent legal counsel if you have questions about your rights.  A link to Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Law is available on the splash of this website. Read More

The Rental Deposit

The Rental Deposit can be an item of hot debate, but it does not have to be.  As part of Consumer Protection Week, the Florida Bar gives us a glimpse at “Tenants’ Rights in Florida,” especially regarding your rental deposit.   When you first move in, the landlord usually requires a deposit. When you move out, you must give the landlord your forwarding mail address. The landlord must either send you the full deposit within 15 days after you leave or send you written notice within 30 days after you leave that he or she intends to keep all or part of your deposit. You could lose some of your deposit for damage beyond “normal wear and tear.” If you disagree with the landlord’s deductions from the deposit, you have to notify the landlord of your disagreement in writing within 15 days of the date you receive the landlord’s letter. Make a copy of your letter to the landlord and send the letter by Certified Mail, return receipt requested. If you cannot negotiate return of your deposit with your landlord, you can file a suit in small claims court. If you want to end your lease early, you must give […] Read More

Hi-Ho The Derry-O What A Legal Mess!

The Farmer in the dell, the Farmer in the dell, hi-ho the derry-o the Farmer in the dell.  The Farmer takes a Wife, they start a married life, hi-ho the derry-o the Farmer and his Wife. The Farmer and his Wife, they have a little strife, hi-ho the derry-o they decide to divorce.  The Farmer stands alone.   The Wife stands alone.  Hi-ho the derry-o the Wife gets the home.  The Wife gets the house, from her x-spouse, hi-ho the derry-o, he quit claimed the deed. The Wife moves away, the Farmer needs to stay, hi-ho the derry-o, the Farmer’s in the house.  The Wife lets him stay, the loan she cannot pay, hi-ho the derry-o, she lists it for Short Sale. The Agent shows the house—but there’s people living there!  Hi-ho the derry-o, the Agent got a scare! “What is going on?”  The Wife is now alarmed, hi-ho the derry-o, he rented out the house. “He rented out the house?”  He rented out the house.  The Farmer was not supposed to but he rented out the house. “Get those people out!” the Wife began to shout.  “Hi-ho the derry-o, those people have to go!” The Farmer cut the water, he […] Read More

Pay to Play?

In most rental eviction defenses, you have to pay to play.  In other words, if you feel you are being wrongfully evicted, you have to deposit rent into the Registry of the Court so that your side will be heard.  But that is not necessarily the case in the Fifth District. There are certain statutory prerequisites to a tenant eviction throughout the State of Florida.  One of those is the Three Day Notice.  Yet here in the Fifth District, if the landlord messes up the Three Day Notice, the Tenant does not necessarily have to pay rent to the Registry of the Court in order to launch a defense.  Right now, this is unique to our District; however, it could go to the Florida Supreme Court to become a statewide rule. There are lots of ways a Landlord can mess things up in an eviction.  Or he can play by the rules. You can learn more about Landlord/Tenant Law on this website.  If you are going to play Landlord, play it right, or you could be the one to pay. Read More

Turn Off the Dark – Renters’ Rights

Landlord-Tenant relations can make a power struggle into a power outage…illegally.  A landlord who turns off the electricity can be sued for three times the rent.  That is nowhere near the cost of liability insurance for Spider-man, but it should be enough to deter landlords from leaving their renters in the dark. Landlord Tenant Law keeps the Landlord from taking gross advantage.  Renters in possession have rights, and they are entitled to the proper procedure in eviction. For eviction forms and more information on Landlord-Tenant Law, visit the St. Johns County Clerk of Courts website at http://www.clk.co.st-johns.fl.us/family/evictions.html.  With great power as a Landlord, comes great responsibility toward your tenants. Read More