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

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

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

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

Summary Process of Tenant Eviction

Tenant Eviction is like watching television shows on Netflix—you get to skip the commercials.  While a foreclosure summons gives a homeowner 20 days to answer, a renter only has 5 days.  The law provides for summary process regarding tenant eviction, meaning it takes a shorter time than a normal lawsuit. As a landlord, you have to follow proper eviction procedure or it might not happen and you could lose more than rent.  If rent is due on Sunday and not paid, then on Monday you can give a Three Day Notice to pay or quit.  You do not count the day on which you give it, thus the renter has until Thursday to pay you.  If rent is not paid, then on Friday you can file a Complaint for Possession.  The Complaint has to be served by a sheriff’s deputy or other person authorized by the sheriff’s department (NOT the landlord).  Once the Complaint is served, if the tenant does not respond in five days, then you can get a Default Judgment and a Writ of Possession.  You have to wait for the court to put you in possession of the property.  Note that Landlord/Tenant Law does not work on […] Read More

Ichabod Crane Gets Schooled on Tenant Eviction

Once upon a time Ichabod Crane owned a nice little cabin overlooking a lake.  It was quiet and small and just the right kind of place to stuff full of books and sit by the fire.  The only problem was, the cabin was not close the school where Ichabod worked.  Old Ich figured he would retire one day to this place, but until then, he wanted a little income from it, just enough to service the mortgage.  So he rented out his cabin to one of his students who was from a rich family and could afford the commute. On the first day of the month, Ichabod rode over to the cabin to collect the rent.  His student met him at the door and said, “Mr. Crane, I did not know that rent was due today.”  The next day Ichabod asked again for the rent.  “I am sorry, Mr. Crane,” said his student, “but the dog ate my rent check.”  The terms of the lease had specified ‘no pets,’ but nevertheless Ichabod told the student he could turn in the payment the next day. By the third day when the student still had not paid his teacher-landlord, Ichabod was not […] Read More

Payday in Landlord-Tenant Relationships

Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant…that term is called payday.  There are penalties for changing the locks or shutting off utilities on your tenant.  If you think a non-paying renter is bad, having to pay that person three-months’ rent is worse. If you try to teach your renter a lesson by turning off the lights, water, or heat, you could wind up getting schooled.  The tuition for the school of hard knocks is three-months’ rent or damages, whichever is more.  For an attorney defending a tenant, the sound of new locks, water shut-off, and/or power disconnect is money to their ears. Any landlord can wind up with a bad tenant, but that does not mean you have to be a bad landlord and risk paying someone who does not pay rent.  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

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

Property Managers & Contested Eviction

Accidents happen and sometimes you become a landlord when you did not mean to.  Some accidental landlords deal with their new position by hiring a management company.  That is fine.  Let the management company handle the repairs, collect the rent, deal with the details of keeping the property rented.  The property management company can file tenant eviction paperwork as long as the eviction is uncontested and for possession only. Property managers and contested evictions do not mix effectively.  A property manager may show up to represent an owner, but unless he is the owner’s attorney, he does not have a legal say in what goes on (in which case his cause may not get very far). Tenant eviction is a summary process, meaning it takes a shorter time than a normal lawsuit; however, if the tenant raises a legal defense, then either the property owner has to represent himself or herself in court, or be represented by legal counsel.     Read More