The law sets a certain framework of behavior and level of service for the landlord and tenant.
Landlord’s rights and obligations
- The landlord may only visit the rented property with “reasonable notice” (at least 12 hours’ notice, but usually a day or two), during daylight hours (7:30 to 20:00) and, of course, for good reasons – mainly for necessary repairs or other agreed services.
- He is obliged to keep the dwelling in order and to correct defects in time. If the landlord refuses to solve problems with the apartment or house, you will have to go through a complicated procedure with written notification and other hassles, up to and including summoning him to court.
- Important: during all the proceedings it is better to pay the rent or at least postpone it separately – in the court proceedings you will be obliged to deposit the entire amount of underpaid rent as a deposit until the court conclusion, and this still does not guarantee a decision in your favor. Therefore, it is better to initially choose a property where significant problems are not expected to arise.
- The landlord has no right to evict the tenant himself, deny him the necessary services (electricity, gas, water, etc.) or remove his property, as well as arbitrarily change the locks. All this is possible only by court order. An interesting detail – this applies to both hotels and motels, so eviction from them (if, of course, this is your only accommodation) must follow the same procedure as eviction from a rented villa in Florida.
Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
In addition to paying rent on time, the tenant must:
- Keep the property clean and orderly;
- Do not conflict with neighbors;
- not damage the property;
- comply with the norms for the use of residential property.
In practice, the last point can lead to fixing holes in the walls when you move out, if you decide to hang your favorite picture, and to order a cleaning service, because the independent wiping of dust, most likely, will not be enough. However, this cleaning is sometimes included in the contract – in that case it is worth checking its cost. In any case, sign an agreement with the owner on the absence of mutual claims when leaving the housing, and this will save you from many problems.
The law also covers in sufficient detail the option when the tenant for some reason does not pay the rent. And although eviction occurs only by court order, that is, not very quickly, it is highly recommended not to get to this point. If only because it will be difficult to hide the fact of non-payment and to rent the next property, especially in such a popular state as Florida, will be very difficult.
Where to start
When you sign a contract for rent in the U.S., the owner or realtor will require that you fulfill certain conditions:
- Prove your ability to pay. A certificate from the bank about an open account with a sufficient amount (for example, to rent for a year or more), a letter from your employer, a statement of credit history and other documents confirming a stable financial situation or a steady income. If these documents are not available, paying rent for an extended period of time can help.
- For those who have been living in America for some time, it is necessary to provide a past address. This is usually accomplished by utility bills sent to your previous address, which are worth saving. However, you should also keep any correspondence with realtors and landlords – without documents, it will be very difficult for you to prove anything if the need arises.
- Show the history of your previous rental relationships, if any.
There may be a fee for the tenant to verify the information provided.
The first thing you should do when you move in is to document the condition of the apartment – fill out and sign a list with the landlord of any broken or missing mandatory items (e.g., water heater) and carefully photograph anything that inspires any doubt, even a dirty window. The landlord is required by law to provide the home in satisfactory condition, if this is not the case but you still want to rent it, all discrepancies should be reflected in the contract. By the way, removal of rodents and termites, garbage disposal and cleanliness of common areas – also in the zone of responsibility of the owner.
Tenant’s Bill of Rights
Since May 2022 in Miami-Dade County (the largest county in Florida, the capital – Miami), the landlord is obliged to issue to the tenant a tenant’s bill of rights, among which are fixed:
- The right of the tenant to make necessary repairs to the unit himself and deduct the amount thereof from the rent. Of course, this requires notice from the tenant and subsequent inaction by the landlord, an estimate of repairs from licensed professionals, and saved receipts for labor and materials.
- A variety of duties to provide information to the tenant, including declaring the building unsafe and changing ownership of the premises.
- The minimum notice period for rent increases has been increased by more than 5% to 60 days.
The bill also includes many other changes, mostly aimed at improving conditions for renters. Since this is the county that had the highest level of competition for rental housing in 2022 (with 14 applicants per rental housing unit for the U.S. as a whole, that number rises to 31 in Miami), these changes are clearly overdue.
Overall, the bill is a notable step toward increasing legal protections for renters in the state.