Hurricane Ian was a historic storm that resulted in much damage to southwest Florida. As a result, many rental properties were destroyed leading to many renters being left with damaged property or even being displaced entirely. Unfortunately, this also leads to many possible disputes between landlords, tenants, and property managers. Although every situation may be unique, the lease agreement and other provisions of the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act may provide more clarity on possible resolutions. Below, we discuss some helpful frequently asked questions from both landlords and tenants.
Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. What Florida law governs landlord tenant relationships? For starters, Part II of Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes, known as the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is the state law that sets forth landlord and tenant statutory obligations and rights. Based on this chapter of the statutes, we have provided some answers to the questions below.
- 2. What happens if a residential rental premises was damaged or destroyed by a hurricane? Section 83.63 of the Florida Statutes is entitled “casualty damage” and addresses this. According to this chapter, if the premises are damaged or destroyed by a casualty (not by the wrongful or negligent acts of the tenant) AND the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired, the tenant may terminate the lease and immediately vacate the premises. In the event that the tenant terminates the lease agreement and vacates the property, the landlord must comply with section 83.49 of the Florida Statutes regarding handling the tenant’s advance rents and deposit. Furthermore, Section 83.63 does not provide the landlord the right to terminate the lease agreement.
- 3. What happens if a hurricane causes casualty damage to a residential rental property and the tenant does not terminate the lease? Section 83.63 of the Florida Statutes specifies if the premises are damaged by a casualty, (not by the tenant), the tenant may vacate the part of the premises rendered unusable by the casualty, and the tenant’s rent shall be reduced by the fair rental value of the part of the premises damaged or destroyed. The reduction of rent by fair market value will likely be a pro-ration based on the unusable square footage of the property.
- 4. Is there a procedure for the tenant to notify the landlord of hurricane damage on the premises? Also, is there an obligation of the tenant to inform the landlord of the tenant’s intention to either terminate the lease or to stay in the property post casualty (hurricane)? Although the Florida Statutes do not specify a required procedure for the tenant to follow in notifying the landlord of their intentions, it is highly recommended that the tenant notify the landlord of their intentions as quickly as possible. In addition, written notification should also accompany any verbal notification. If a tenant stays in a partially damaged unit, the landlord should notify the tenant of the pro-rated rent in writing.
- 5. What other factors could impact the rights of the tenant and obligations of the landlord, concerning damage to rental premises due to hurricanes? In addition to the Florida Statues, many local municipalities and counties have their own specific landlord tenant ordinances. With this said, these are often more strict than the Florida Statutes. In these situations, it is always advisable to consult a real estate attorney for direct guidance.
The devastation and destruction in the wake of a hurricane can be quite overwhelming. With this said, it is important for tenants, landlords, and property managers to be familiar with the various laws governing landlord tenant agreements. In these cases, it is critical to consult a reputable and knowledgeable real estate attorney. If you do not have a real estate attorney, your real estate agent should be able to provide you with a few options.
Are you looking to buy an investment or income-producing property in South Florida? We can help! Contact Natasha at Live South Florida Realty, Inc. today! Also, download the free Florida Home Search app for your mobile device as well.