After Irma: Renters' rights in a damaged property

Tenants say Irma damage not being fixed

Following Hurricane Irma's brush with the First Coast many renters are left with damaged properties and questions. If your home is "uninhabitable" you have a right to terminate your lease and move.

Florida State Statute 83.40 begins the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which is legal-speak for what exactly a landlord and tenant's rights are.

First and foremost, the landlord is obligated to "at all times during the tenancy" comply with the building, housing, and health codes if they exist for the building.

If a wall, window, porch, step, or any other structural component is not to these standards, it must be raised to meet them.

In the event that there are no applicable building, housing or health codes, the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and all other structural components must be in good repair and capable of resisting "normal forces" and loads; the plumbing must be in reasonable working condition. 

If you have an issue you must bring it to your landlord in writing (consider making it a certified latter) and you must express your intent to terminate your lease if the issue is not rectified. If your landlord fails to fix the issue with the structural integrity of the home within seven days, you can terminate your rental agreement.

If your landlord has made and continues to make "every reasonable effort" to correct the issue but cannot, the rental agreement may be terminated.

If your home is damaged through no fault of your own, "so that the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired," you can terminate your rental agreement immediately and leave. You can also vacate "part of the premises" if it's "unusable" because of the damage and if that happens a landlord must adjust the rent by the "fair rental value of that part of the premises."

Additionally, if the landlord's failure to fix the issue renders the home unlivable and you leave, you will not be liable for the rent during the time that the home remains "uninhabitable."

However, you forfeit your right to terminate your rental agreement or take your landlord to court over a specific issue, if you pay rent in full when you and your landlord are aware of said issue.

Before withholding rent or attempting to cancel a lease agreement, understand your rights. 

You can view them as they are outlined in the state statute here.

 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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