Re: Maintenance/Withholding Rent
by MrDan on Wednesday, December 28, 2011 @00:36
This should give you the info you need; (7 day letter) The Letter from the Tenant- What does it look like The letter from the tenant will often be a complaint letter listing one or more items and demanding that the landlord fix these items. In order for the tenant to withhold rent or break the lease, first these items must be those that allow the tenant to withhold rent or terminate, and secondly, the letter must give the landlord 7 days to fix the items and state in the letter that failure to repair will result in rent withholding or the tenant breaking the lease. The letter needs to be in writing, but some judges have held that verbal or actual knowledge by the landlord was enough for the tenant to comply with the tenantís obligation of putting the landlord on notice. Here is Florida law pertaining to termination of the rental agreement. FS 83.56 (1) If the landlord materially fails to comply with s. 83.51(1) or material provisions of the rental agreement within 7 days after delivery of written notice by the tenant specifying the noncompliance and indicating the intention of the tenant to terminate the rental agreement by reason thereof, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement. If the failure to comply with s. 83.51(1) or material provisions of the rental agreement is due to causes beyond the control of the landlord and the landlord has made and continues to make every reasonable effort to correct the failure to comply, the rental agreement may be terminated or altered by the parties, as follows: (a) If the landlord's failure to comply renders the dwelling unit untenantable and the tenant vacates, the tenant shall not be liable for rent during the period the dwelling unit remains uninhabitable. (b) If the landlord's failure to comply does not render the dwelling unit untenantable and the tenant remains in occupancy, the rent for the period of noncompliance shall be reduced by an amount in proportion to the loss of rental value caused by the noncompliance
For what items can the tenant legally withhold rent or terminate the lease?
A technical reading of Florida Statute 83.60(1), the section of Florida law specifically addressing the tenantís right to withhold rent, indicates that a tenantís right to withhold rent is restricted to violations of 83.51(1), which essentially involves the landlordís failure to maintain the property up to existing building, housing or health codes. The tenant has the right to terminate the lease when an 83.51(1) violation exists, or if the landlord is failing to provide a material provision of the rental agreement. The right to terminate is actually a more expansive right, and what constitutes a material provision of the lease can be subjective. However, many judges allow the tenant to withhold rent for items that would not technically constitute code violations (for example, a refrigerator problem).
The Letter from the Tenant- What does it do? A letter from the tenant in accordance with Florida law will allow a tenant to break the lease if the problem is not repaired within 7 days AND will create a complete defense to an eviction action IF the problem has not been repaired within 7 Days. This is a very powerful tool the tenant has, and if the landlord receives such a letter, it should NOT be taken lightly, and most importantly, it should not be withheld from the attorney who may be filing the eviction action. Here is Florida law showing how the tenantís letter could be a complete defense to an eviction action and stating the strength of the tenantís letter to you. FS 83.60(1) ÖThe defense of a material noncompliance with s. 83.51(1) may be raised by the tenant if 7 days have elapsed after the delivery of written notice by the tenant to the landlord specifying the noncompliance and indicating the intention of the tenant not to pay rent by reason thereof. Such notice by the tenant may be given to the landlord, the landlord's representative as designated pursuant to s. 83.50(1), a resident manager, or the person or entity who collects the rent on behalf of the landlord. A material noncompliance with s. 83.51(1) by the landlord is a complete defense to an action for possession based upon nonpayment of rentÖ
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