Residential and Commercial Leases Are Different

With residential leases, you are not going to use a lawyer all the time to set up a rental.  A commercial lease, however, is more sophisticated. Residential landlords own the dirt and the building they are leasing out.  Commercial leases, however, have a lien on the stuff inside the building.  As a commercial tenant, you cannot just leave in the middle of the night.  Your landlord has a lien on your furnishings and equipment. Also, unlike a residential lease, a commercial landlord can put a chain on your door in certain circumstances, denying you access to your property and rental space. Do not get stuck in a lease you do not understand.  Whether it is residential or commercial, if you do not understand the terms of the lease, seek competent legal counsel to look over your shoulder.  An attorney who represents you and only you can help ensure you are getting wheat you think you are getting.   Read More

My Favorite Landlord

My favorite landlord to oppose is the one who locks out their tenant—I love the smell of bad landlords in the morning! There is a proper way to do tenant eviction, and then there are a lot of improper tenant eviction techniques, like locking out the tenant or shutting off the water, heat, electricity.  Some landlords get creative in their self-help eviction…but the law is not on their side. 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. 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. 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 […] Read More

Free Legal Lecture April 8: “Landlord/Tenant Laws”

So you did not go to law school and you did not pass the Bar Exam.  No problem.  The People’s Law School continues in April with its series of legal lectures presented by St. Johns County Legal Aid.  The April 8th 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 continues as follows: April 22 – “Should You Ever Put Someone Else’s Name on Your Deed?” All classes are free and open to the public, 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

April Deadlines: April 1st & 15th

It is the first of the month, do you know where your rent is?  No fooling, if rent is due on the first of the month, then it is due today, April 1st. Renters pay rent and landlords collect rent and allow the renters to live on the property they are renting.  The concept is simple and easy to remember.  However, if that relationship breaks down, then 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. 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 Only, which costs less […] Read More

Renting Out Your Primary Residence

So you decided to make a little extra income by renting out your primary residence.  However, what you gain in rent you could lose in unexpected expenses and other losses.  Examine your choice carefully before you put a renter in your homestead.  Here are a few items to consider: Homestead Exemption Tax By renting out your primary residence, that property is no longer eligible for homestead tax exemption.  That does not necessarily mean that renting out your home is a bad idea, just make sure the rental income will not cost you more than you gain from homestead tax exemption. Homeowner Assistance If you are looking to rental income to help you save your mortgage loan, you may be giving up a most valuable asset to renters:  your home.  Many homeowner assistance programs are for the primary residence.  If you are not living there, foreclosure avoidance programs cannot help you save that property.  If the rental income is not enough to service the mortgage and save the loan, you may not have access to adequate mortgage relief. Being a Landlord Learn about being a landlord so you can do it cost-effectively.  Renters in possession have rights…even if it is your […] Read More

Cold Hard Settlement

Having the landlord shut off your heat is not ideal for your personal comfort.  It could also mean a cold hard settlement to you as the tenant.  While air conditioning is optional for landlords to offer, renters are entitled to live in units with water, electricity, garbage service, elevators (where appropriate), refrigeration, gas (where appropriate), and heat. Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant:  payday.  If a landlord tries to “teach” a lesson to a tenant by turning off the lights, water, or heat, that landlord could 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. Message to landlords:  Keep the heat on and follow the proper procedure for tenant eviction.  More information is 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 . The good news is that the courthouse has heat and air condition for whatever legal issue you have to weather. 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

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

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

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