Why you might need a Landlord Tenant Business Litigation Attorney

Transactions between owners and tenants can get tricky. Landlords try to evict tenants without notice and often don’t provide the services agreed to. Tenants don’t pay the rent, destroy the property or become a nuisance to the neighbors.

Having a lease or written business contract doesn’t always help in these situations. For the landlord, removing an undesirable tenant from the property is expensive and time consuming.  For a tenant, living in adverse conditions can be unsafe and unhealthy. Withholding the rent is not an option.

As a Landlord Tenant Business Litigation Attorney, Stefanie Moon has represented both landlords and tenants in her two-plus decades of practicing law. Landlord/tenant disputes fall under the area of commercial litigation, an area of law in which Ms. Moon is well versed.

What constitutes a landlord/tenant agreement?

When a party pays for a place to live at any given regular interval from any other party, even if the agreement is not in writing, that party is governed by Florida business law as a tenant. Chapter 83, Part II provides the framework for commercial litigation by landlords and tenants including both party’s rights and responsibilities. The rental agreement can be either oral or written. Florida law requires that notices to and from a landlord be in writing and either hand delivered or mailed, regardless of whether the rental agreement is oral or written.

Landlord rights and responsibilities

Both the landlord and tenant have a duty to observe and comply with local and state law regarding the use and condition of the property. As a general rule of thumb, the landlord has the following responsibilities:

• Comply with applicable building, housing and health codes
• Where there are no applicable codes, maintain the roof, windows, screens, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads
• Maintain plumbing in reasonably good working order including running & hot water
• Provide reasonable extermination for rodents, ants, wood destroying organisms and bed bugs
• Provide locks & keys
• Maintain clean & safe common areas
• Provide garbage removal & outside receptacles
• Provide functioning facilities for heat during winter

Tenant rights and responsibilities

The tenant has the following responsibilities during the term of the tenancy:

• Comply with applicable building, housing and health codes
• Remove garbage from the dwelling in a clean & sanitary manner
• Keep plumbing fixtures clean and in good repair
• Refrain from destroying, damaging or removing any part of the premises or property, or allow anyone else to do so
• Refrain from conduct which would unreasonably disturb neighbors or constitute a breach of the peace, or allow anyone else to do so
• Operate all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating ventilating, air-conditioning and all other facilities and appliances, including the elevators in a reasonable manner

The landlord may access the dwelling unit under the following conditions:

• At any time to protect or preserve the premises
• Upon reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time to make repairs
• At any time when the tenant is absent from the premises for half time of periodic rental payments, if notice of absence is not provided by the tenant
• At any time when the tenant has given consent
• At any time when the tenant unreasonably withholds consent
• In case of an emergency

Landlords commonly require a damage deposit prior to occupancy. Upon termination of the rental agreement or business contract, a tenant must provide the landlord with the required notice of intent to vacate the premises. Upon vacating the premises, if the landlord intends to return the security deposit, they must do so within 15 days. If the landlord decides to keep part of the security deposit, they must give the tenant written notice of how much of the deposit will be kept and why. If this notice is not provided as required within 30 days, the landlord forfeits their right to keep the deposit. The tenant has 15 days to object to the landlord’s claim to keep part of the deposit in writing. If no written objection is received, the landlord may deduct the amount of their claim and send the balance of the deposit to the tenant within 30 days.