Rising Tensions Between Florida Landlords and Tenants Part 3: Maintenance

In the final of our 3 part series about the rising tensions, between Florida landlords and tenants, we’ll focus on the most common issue we see as business attorneys. We previously talked about tensions surrounding rising rental costs[LINK TO JANUARY BLOG 1] and the handling of security deposits[LINK TO JANUARY BLOG 2]

Another issue Florida landlords need to be on top of is the need for ongoing maintenance at rental properties. In an ideal world, you could move tenants in and out without the need for maintenance while the property is occupied. Because we live in reality, landlords need to be prepared for necessary and sometimes urgent maintenance while tenants are occupying properties.

Understand Landlord Maintenance Responsibilities

Florida Statute 83.51 details a landlord’s obligation to maintain residential properties. Landlords are legally responsible for ensuring all properties comply with health and housing codes as well as maintaining structural integrity. This includes repairs to “roofs, windows, screens, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components.”

Some additional responsibilities can fall on Florida landlords unless otherwise specified in the rental agreement. This includes the extermination of “rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs” as well as installing smoke detectors, producing keys, keeping properties clean, removing garbage, and maintaining facilities for heat and water.

Respond to Maintenance Requests in a Timely Manner

You have a handful of options to handle maintenance, but it’s important not to take this responsibility for granted. A failure to respond to maintenance requests in a timely manner can put tenants at risk, exposing them to significant liability in litigation.

Some requests are more urgent than others but all requests should at least be acknowledged swiftly. A quick repair lessens your liability and keeps tenants content.

Consider a Property Management Company

Many landlords are already taking advantage of an in-between property management company that handles all tenant requests for you. These companies will work with you to make sure there is the budget available to handle urgent requests while leaving unique or potentially unnecessary requests up to your approval.

These companies are highly-staffed and take the responsibility out of your hands. This doesn’t mean you won’t face liability if the property management company fails to take care of urgent or dangerous requests, so it’s imperative to choose the right company.

Don’t Cut Corners on Repairs

We all know the type to slap duct tape on just about anything and consider it fixed. That’s not going to cut it for tenants, especially with rising rental costs.

Repairs that are done haphazardly may expose you to even more risk than simply failing to respond to a maintenance request. This is because a conscious choice was made to not directly address the issue and instead attempt to patch it to get by. You may think a tenant will be moving out soon so you can worry about the full repair later but these maintenance issues can still expose the current tenant to direct risk and will expose future tenants to additional risk if a full repair is never made.

Work with an Attorney to Protect Your Investments

You know your responsibilities and Florida tenants should understand their own responsibilities under Statute 83.52. If you’re dealing with a problem tenant or are being accused of failing to keep up with your legal responsibilities to maintain a property, your investment(s) could be at risk. Schedule a consultation with Bryant Taylor Law if you need to ensure your investments are secure and protected from liability when maintenance issues arise.

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