Evicting Dr. Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein was a terrible tenant.  There were strange smells, late night excavations, and complaints from undertakers about missing corpses.  Furthermore, Dr. Frankenstein never paid his rent.  His landlord was fed up and wanted Dr. Frankenstein out. What the landlord did not know was that Dr. Frankenstein was conducting his greatest experiment, a matter of life and death!  Dr. Frankenstein was building a superhuman with the legs of a running back, the arms of a weightlifter, and the head of a law professor.  Just at the moment when Dr. Frankenstein was going to unite the various body parts with a surge of electrical current, the landlord shut the power off. However, also at that moment a storm was approaching.  Dr. Frankenstein hoisted the lifeless collection of body parts to the highest point of his rental property, and then tied a kite to his creation. Sure enough—SHAAA-ZAMMO! Lightning struck with ten thousand times the voltage that would have come from  Dr. Frankenstein’s washer/dryer outlet, and behold…the creature came to life!  With superhuman strength and the madness only possessed by law professors and judges who’ve sat on the bench too long, the creature took off in a rampage, destroying everything in its […] Read More

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

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

Mrs. Tittlemouse in the Trailer Park

Once upon a time Mrs. Tittlemouse was having her home tented for bugs.  What with the creepy-crawly people in the plate rack and Miss Butterfly tasting sugar in the larder and all the other uninvited guests, she just could not stand it any longer, and she moved out temporarily to rent a trailer. The trailer park was owned by Mr. Jackson, a toad of a landlord, but an acquaintance of Mrs. Tittlemouse’s.  He had a great many rules:  no drinking, drugs, excessive noise, children, or pets.  This suited Mrs. Tittlemouse quite well and she certainly saw no aversion to following the rules on her part, so she signed the lease and moved in.  Immediately after that, Mr. Jackson sojourned up the river where he had heard the flies were hatching. Meanwhile back at the trailer park, none of the rules were being enforced.  The park ran amok with an excess of drinking, drugs, noise, children, and pets.  It was very vexing to Mrs. Tittlemouse who was a most terribly tidy particular little mouse!  However, she feared if she moved out, she might be sued, or at least lose her last month’s rent.  She even feared this may have been Mr. […] 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

Your Landlord & Your HVAC System

Your HVAC system provides Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning to your rental unit, but only the Heat is essential as far as your landlord is concerned.  Though we live in Florida, your renters’ rights do not extend to Air Conditioning. Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant…that term is called payday.  A landlord who tries to evict by changing the locks or shutting off utilities on a tenant could be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater).  However, Florida tenants are not entitled to live in rental units with working air conditioning. If you have a problem with your heating, ventilating, and/or air conditioning (HVAC) system, talk to your landlord.  If that does not help, follow proper legal procedures to lodge a complaint, and make sure your rent is paid up, even if you are paying it to the registry of the court.  For more information on renters’ rights, contact Legal Aid for help at http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/stjohns.html.  Even if you do not qualify, they offer free pamphlets on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. 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

Legal Aid Not the Same As Public Defender

The Sixth Amendment gives you the Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  Legal Counsel is so necessary in a criminal case that if a defendant cannot afford counsel, the State provides counsel without fee.  This does not apply in a civil matter (such as divorce, landlord-tenant dispute, or foreclosure defense); that is where Legal Aid plays a vital role in providing legal services for civil cases involving the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. Legal Aid is not the same as a Public Defender.  You will not be assigned an attorney if you cannot afford one for a case where your lender is suing to foreclose on your home. St. Johns County Legal Aid is a local non-profit agency that primarily serves the most vulnerable demographic of our population, 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,” and they mean it. 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 […] Read More

Holiday Rush & Pause on Renter Eviction

The hustle and bustle of the holidays does not apply to renter eviction.  Landlord-Tenant Law works off the courthouse calendar—not Wal-Mart hours. Tenant eviction is a summary process that can be done in as little as two weeks (if done properly).  Landlord notices come in increments of less than ten days.  Because that is such a short amount of time, the court does not count holidays or weekends to allow the tenant time to get things done.  Plus it is harder for a tenant to pay a landlord on holidays and weekends when banks are closed. 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 […] Read More