Florida landlords now can evict tenants more quickly — but tenants enjoy new protections when it comes to security deposit refunds and one-sided leases.
Those are three of the changes state lawmakers made last month to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. The revisions were the most significant in more than 20 years, said Jerron Kelley, a Boca Raton based real estate lawyer.
"The changes were made to clarify the rights and responsibilities of both sides in areas of the law that were open to interpretation," he said.
Large property managers have the resources to stay on top of the changes, but individual landlords may not be aware, Kelley said. In the past few years, thousands of South Florida homeowners have become reluctant landlords and still continue to lease their properties because the area's rental market remains so vibrant following the housing collapse.
The new provisions went into effect July 1. Below, Kelley highlights some of the most important aspects of the updated law that landlords and tenants need to know:
1. Change in law: If a landlord who wants to keep the security deposit doesn't notify a tenant in writing within 30 days of the move, the landlord must refund the full amount of the deposit. Landlords also need to include statutory language regarding the security deposit dispute procedures in all leases beginning Jan. 1.
How it affects landlords: This places more of a burden on landlords. Many use boiler-plate leases that need to be updated.
How it affects tenants: Abby Blake, 24, who rents a condominium in West Boca, applauds lawmakers for allowing renters to demand a full refund if landlords don't provide the proper notice.
"That change will help a lot of tenants," Blake said. "It's a big chunk of money that I need to put my next deposit down."
2. Change in law: If a tenant violates a lease provision — such as not paying rent on time or having a pet — and doesn't correct the problem after receiving a seven-day notice to do so, the landlord can move to evict after the seventh day without providing any further notice. Previously, a landlord had to send a second seven-day notice in order to terminate the lease.
How it affects landlords: Michael Dugan, who owns a Deerfield Beach rental, said the faster evictions are a necessary tool for landlords dealing with problem tenants.
"Time is of the essence," he said."A lot of landlords are not independently wealthy. We depend on that cash flow to keep the investment running."
How it affects tenants: Some tenants have abused this provision in the past and have been slow to fix lease violations. But this puts tenants on notice that they must correct the problems right away.
3. Change in law: Landlords can accept partial rent payments and still move to evict in the same month — provided that the landlords give tenants a receipt for the partial payment, place the partial payments in the court registry if the evictions are filed or post notices informing tenants that they must pay the amount due or vacate within three days.
How it affects landlords: Previously, some judges had ruled that landlords couldn't evict a tenant in the same month in which the landlords had accepted a partial rent payment. This is another provision that speeds up the eviction process.
How it affects tenants: Some have paid part of the rent and then added the remaining balance to the following month's rent, giving them extra time to come up with the money. Those tenants can no longer depend on that option.
4. Change in law: If a lease requires a tenant to provide up to 60 days' notice to vacate, the landlord must also provide up to 60 days' notice that the lease will not be renewed.
How it affects landlords: This evens the score a bit, requiring landlords to provide the same amount of notice as tenants.
How it affects tenants: This tenant-friendly provision prevents landlords from creating such one-sided leases.
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The Sun Sentinel