Thursday, September 18, 2014

The New Landlord: Maintenance Obligations

The New Landlord:  Maintenance Obligations under FL Law
We look further into a Landlord's Maintenance Obligations as outlined by FL Landlord Tenant Law.

While your lease agreement will outline specific instructions for tenant and landlord maintenance, landlords are ultimately subject to abiding by state and local laws.

It is critical for landlords to understand their obligations for maintaining their home under Florida Statutes governing Landlord and Tenant Law. If you are not aware of these laws, you expose yourself to unnecessary liability and a number of problem scenarios including a tenant withholding rent or terminating their lease agreement early.

To help you better understand these complex laws, we are going to break down current FL Statute 83.51 which defines landlord obligations to maintain the premises.
 
"Landlord at all times during the tenancy shall
      1. Comply with requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes
      2. Where there are no applicable building, housing, or health codes, maintain the roofs, windows, screens, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition."
"The landlord’s obligations under this subsection may be altered or modified in writing with respect to a single-family home or duplex." (i.e. agreed upon by both parties in your written lease agreement)

(2)(a) "Unless otherwise agreed in writing, in addition to the requirements of subsection (1), the landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for:
1.   The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs.
2. Locks and keys.
3.The clean and safe condition of common areas.
4. Garbage removal and outside receptacles therefor.
5. Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water. 
(b) Unless otherwise agreed in writing, at the commencement of the tenancy of a single-family home or duplex, the landlord shall install working smoke detection devices. "

Extermination is usually considered landlord responsibility
 unless your lease agreement states otherwise!

Luckily, they also include the following clarifications in this chapter of FL Landlord Tenant law.
  • "When vacation of the premises is required for such extermination, the landlord shall not be liable for damages but shall abate the rent. The tenant shall be required to temporarily vacate the premises for a period of time not to exceed 4 days, on 7 days’ written notice, if necessary, for extermination pursuant to this subparagraph.
  • Nothing contained in this subsection prohibits the landlord from providing in the rental agreement that the tenant is obligated to pay costs or charges for garbage removal, water, fuel, or utilities.
  • The landlord is not responsible to the tenant under this section for conditions created or caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family, or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent."
A few clarifications:
  • The laws require more strict maintenance obligations by landlord for multi-family properties and apartment communities.  Because pests can travel from unit to unit, pest control is considered the landlords responsibility for multi-family properties unless agreed upon in writing by both parties. Because multiple tenants can create unsafe situations in common areas and around trash receptacles, the landlord is required to maintain those areas under FL Landlord Tenant Laws. 
Did you know that smoke detectors expire!
Air conditioning repairs are beyond the scope of renters requirements!
  • Did you know that smoke detectors only have a shelf life of 10 years? Each smoke detector has a date on it. Make sure to check yours yearly to ensure your home is adequately protected! Items like these need to be replaced routinely while you are leasing your home and (most of the time) can not be charged back to the tenant.

  • The statute does not specifically require that air conditioning be maintained by the landlord, however, like any other major appliance in the home, if air conditioning is working when the tenants moved in, a judge would agree that the landlord must maintain the air conditioner during occupancy.  (Most lease agreements do require the tenants to change their air filters regularly and can assess fines and damages based upon improper care.)  Also, local building codes and/or the FL Building Codes may require landlords to maintain air conditioning.  Unless your lease agreement states otherwise, the landlord is required to maintain all appliances owned by landlord at the property. 

  •  This principle "if it was there when they moved in, it should be maintained" goes with most items in the home unless your lease agreement specifically says otherwise. For example, our lease agreement states that items like ceiling fans, garbage disposal, and ice makers can be removed instead of replaced in the event they malfunction.  If your lease agreement doesn't address these issues, the judge may rule that you would need to replace/ repair something if it was in working condition when the tenants moved in. 
Screens Florida Landlord Tenant Law
Missing or badly damaged screens are against FL Landlord Tenant
laws and should be replaced prior to tenants move in
  • The most recent updates to Landlord Tenant law require screens to be installed and in reasonable condition at move in. The law also requires the landlord to repair screens only once annually if necessary. 
In addition to complying with Landlord Tenant Law Statutes, you must be sure to comply with local building, housing, and health codes. The Florida Building Code outlines further codes to consider.  If you are unsure about your local laws or the obligations under your lease agreement, consult a real estate attorney.

To see Chapter 83.51 of the Florida Statutes in its entirety as well as to review the full Landlord Tenant laws, please visit The Florida Senate website.   

The Bottom Line
Components of your home tend to break down and deteriorate over time with just normal wear and tear. Be prepared as a landlord to routinely spend money updating and improving the components in your home. 

Under Florida law, most of these items can not be charged back to the tenant unless the burden of proof shows that the tenant was 100% responsible for damages caused by misuse or neglect.  Being a good landlord requires a continuous financial investment to maintain your home in accordance with the law and to keep your renters satisfied.
 
This is the ninth article of our blog series "The New Landlord: Tips & Tricks for the Profitable Landlord."  Make sure to follow our blog for more advice on how to be an effective landlord!   See our past articles including:
Nicole St. Aubin, Broker Associate
Realty Masters of FL~ #1 in Pensacola Rental Homes 
4400 Bayou Blvd. #58B, Pensacola, FL 32503
Call us at (850) 473-3983

Over 45 Pensacola Rental Homes at www.PensacolaRealtyMasters.com

*Disclaimer- I am not a real estate attorney and therefore not qualified to give real estate legal advice. Please consult an attorney for clarification of FL Landlord Tenant Laws.


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