Abominable Snowman & the Rental Unit A/C

The Abominable Snowman rented a place in Florida one summer, eager to check out the beach and what everybody saw in those tourist billboards up North. “No pets,” was the first thing Larry the Landlord said when he got a look at Mr. Abominable. After they got over the issue of the Abominable Snowman being the renter himself and not a pet, and after they got over the negotiation of an extra security deposit to cover hair removal from the drains, Larry the Landlord and the Abominable Snowman signed a lease agreement. One night the Abominable Snowman was in his rental unit having pizza with his southern cousin, the Swamp Ape, when suddenly the air conditioning cut out. “I got to go,” said the Swamp Ape, and he cut out faster than the A/C because he was wanted—everybody was always trying to post his picture and get an interview. The Abominable Snowman was furious and overheated, and he withheld rent for every day of the lease that he did not have air-conditioning. He went to court to raise a fuss, but because he had not paid his rent (not even into the Registry of the Court) he had no say […] 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

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

Pay Your Rent

The key to Landlord-Tenant relationships is to pay rent…whether the relationship is a good or bad.  A renter does not have a lot of defenses if rent is not current.  Despite your complaints about the property or what your landlord has done to it, pay your rent. As a bona fide tenant, you should have running water, power, heat, and quiet enjoyment.  But the court cannot hear your complaint about the condition of your rental until rent is paid. Furthermore, rent is not like a mortgage payment.  As a tenant, you do not have a lot of time or defenses when it comes to the payment of rent.  The law provides for summary process regarding tenant eviction.  While a regular lawsuit gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days. Your only defense for non-payment eviction is:  I paid.  The Statute is very explicit:  “I paid” is the only defense.  It is a pay to play process.  (We do not want a gunfight over rent.)  Regardless of how your landlord is behaving, you can pay your rent to the Registry of the Court.  Once your rent is current, then the court can address your problem with […] Read More

Tenant Eviction for the Accidental Landlord

So you found your dream home but cannot sell your old house and decided to rent it.  Remember:  even accidental landlords have to play by the rules.   That means following the proper procedure for tenant eviction. If rent is due on Monday and not paid, then on Tuesday you can issue a 3-day notice.  The 3-Day Notice has to say that the tenant owes you rent and how much.  You can post it on the door if your tenant is not home.  If nothing happens by Friday, you can terminate the lease and file for eviction. Note that if you want to file for back rent, that is a separate count on the lawsuit, and the process takes longer than filing for a Writ of Possession. While tenant eviction is a Summary Procedure, meaning it takes a shorter time than a normal lawsuit, the law is structured not to allow for self-help eviction.  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. It is okay to be an accidental landlord—you may even like it—but you do not have to […] Read More

Effective Eviction Date in Foreclosed Rentals

The “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009” is written in plain English, and plainly states that a tenant has at least 90 days notice to leave provided that Mr. Tenant has a bona fide lease or tenancy (and of course, his rent is paid). Ninety days is the minimum amount of time a tenant has, and that is only if the new owner of the foreclosed property is going to use it as a primary residence.  If the bank that bought it does not intend to move in, then Mr. Tenant may remain until the end of his lease, as long as he keeps the terms of the lease, including rent payment. Note that the countdown clock of the eviction starts on the day title is transferred—not the foreclosure sale date.  Often the transfer of property title does not happen until ten days after the sale date. The “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009” is published by the Comptroller of the Currency, and it too has an expiration.  Available free online in PDF format (type the title into your search engine), it comes complete with a worksheet, and is currently set to expire December 31, 2014. Read More

Tailor Tenant Against the Bank

Once upon a time there lived a Tailor in a little rented house.  It was located close to the shop where he worked, he could afford the rent, and he felt very comfortable.  The Tailor lived by himself and paid his rent on time every month; he had no intention of moving.  Then one day the Bank came and told the Tailor he had to leave. “But why?” asked the Tailor. “This property is being foreclosed on,” said the Bank.  “The landlord you have paid rent to has not made mortgage payments.  This house is being taken over by the Bank.” Despite the Tailor’s protests, the Bank tried to argue that he did not have a bonafide lease with his landlord. “I am a Tailor,” the Tailor retorted, “and I stake my reputation on this:  the lease was a perfect legal fit at arm’s length,” he told the Judge, “it was rented at market value and terms, and it existed before the foreclosure.” The Judge ruled in favor of the Tailor, and his carefully measured arm’s length lease.  The Bank was made to honor the terms of the lease, at the end of which the Tailor had to outfit himself […] Read More

Where Is the Rent?

It is the beginning of the month, do you know where your rent check is?  Do you know the proper legal procedure to get your rent money?  The landlord can be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater) for improper eviction.  Self-medicating is not always appropriate, and self-help eviction is against the law.  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. DO NOT: Lock your renter out of the rental unit Cut off the water, gas, lights, electrical, garbage service, heat, elevators, or refrigeration Interfere with access to the rental unit Remove the outside doors, locks, roofs, walls or windows   DO: Learn about your rights and duties, whether you are a landlord or a tenant. Landlord-tenant law is available to the public in “A Guide to Evictions” 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 . Seek competent legal counsel for any further questions you may have regarding Landlord-Tenant Law…the easy way to do this is attend the free, one-hour class March 19 about Landlord-Tenant Law presented by St. Johns County Legal Aid at […] Read More

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