SECURITY DEPOSIT TIME LIMIT

 

Your old tenant is moving out and you have a new one coming in.  Let’s say the old tenant left in a hurry, so you and staff have to now move out the trash and leftover belongings, steam the carpet, repaint the walls, do minor repair work.  There’s a huge chunk of change from the security deposit that you want to use to cover expenses.  You think to yourself you have 30 days to notify the previous tenant of your plans to use the funds to cover rehabilitation expenses.  That’s well within your rights.

What if you only use part of the deposit for repairs and/or rehabilitation?  Still think you have the full 30 days to deliver the remaining balance of the previous tenant’s deposit?  Not so, says Florida Law.  You have fifteen days to return the rest of the deposit to the previous tenant if you are not making any claim. That means, if you don’t have to do any cleaning, repairs or rehabilitation that requires you to take some/part/all of the previous tenant’s deposit, you have fifteen days to return/refund the full amount. If not, then you are opening yourself and the corporation to a lawsuit (and potential add-on fees that would double or triple what you would have to pay). So, be sure to ask your company’s attorney or the attorney you have on hand to handle your real estate/tenant legal issues.   The last thing you would need is to have to pay thousands of dollars, in addition to returning the previous tenant’s deposit, when you first were notified of the tenant’s intent to vacate the premises.

 

ENTRE VOUS part trois

     Many times, a landlord must enter a tenant’s apartment, condominium or house to do repair work.  In this instance, at least twelve hours notice must be given by the landlord to the tenant.

     Florida State Law, FS 83.53 provides that the landlord may enter the rental “upon reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time for the purpose of repair of the premises.” Note that this is access for repair only. Reasonable notice for repair purposes is “notice given at least 12 hours prior to the entry”. Reasonable time for repair is “between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.” Outside of consent, the most common method to gain access for repair is by posting on the door a notice to enter the next day. Although the statute provides that 12 hours is reasonable notice, the 12.5 hour reasonable time window for access makes same day notice and access totally impractical for non-emergency repairs.

     Because the statute provides for a 12-hour notice and 7:30-8:00 time for repairs, these have become the safe harbor as reasonable notice and time for all notices and entries. If the entry is for something that a reasonable person (read here “a judge”) would think needs more notice, then more notice should be given. While a day’s notice may be sufficient for repair of the sink faucet drip, more notice would be reasonable for carpet replacement, when the resident would be required to clear a room or rooms of everything but furniture. Landlords are reminded that the preferred method of entry in all situations is a mutually satisfactory time and date with the resident.


GOING, GOING, GONE!

Evictions:  everyone loves them!  Residents enjoy seeing the writ of eviction taped to their door, Sheriff’s deputies enjoy serving papers to weeping, hysterical parents and managers of the residence enjoy confrontation it brings.  

     No one, I repeat, no one enjoys evictions.  It is a last resort for those residents who have failed to pay rent or have been such horrible, terrible people that they must absolutely leave the premises: This time by force (legal and otherwise).  Maybe they didn’t pay rent the past three or four months, or their checks continually bounced; maybe they have had complaints racked up against them for housing, noise or litter violations.  Maybe it was a combination of everything. 

     For whatever reason, now you’ve got to start the proceedings for eviction.  You post the notice on their door…and nothing happens.  Did they ignore the posting?  Not see it?  Are they not in the premises anymore?  So, you look in the unit and it’s as if they just stepped out for milk and bread.  Their furniture is still there, clothes still in the closets, food in the kitchen.  What now?

     Legally, there are steps you should take.  First and foremost, review.  Go back through your files, and make sure that the eviction was not performed in error, and do whatever it takes to contact the evicted resident. Do everything in your power to contact the evicted resident. Can’t locate the resident and everything’s in order?  Then you and your staff can remove the belongings to the property line.  The last thing you need is for an evicted resident to get out or jail or an institution, only to discover that you took all their personal property to the property line and that it is now all gone.


SWEET NOTHINGS

     As an apartment manager, you will always have one tenant that has become a nuisance.  Loud parties, obnoxious behavior, maybe you suspect theft or drug use.  Time and again, either you or other tenants have called the police on the offending residents.  You have what you consider a rock solid case against them for eviction purposes.  Heading into court, you submit the raft of police reports, written complaints from other tenants and your own written history of the offender(s) actions.

     The judge summarily dismisses your case.  You are left stunned.  What happened?  With out actual witness testimony from the people behind those written reports, it’s all going to be dismisses as heresay.  Hearsay is defined as an out of court oral or written statement offered to prove the truth of the matter being asserted. Many property managers believe that hearsay simply means that a person told you something, and you are prevented from admitting that statement into evidence at a court hearing. That is true to some extent, unless that person is in court with you. The reason is simple. If the witness cannot be called to the stand and cross-examined by the opposing party, then the statement is inadmissible.

     Don’t get me wrong, having police reports and written eyewitness testimony is going to vastly improve your chances of winning.  But without the witnesses and police physically there, in the witness chair, to be cross examined, all your hard work will be worthless.  Plus, the repercussions of losing your case are enormous. First, the problem resident is allowed to remain on the premises, and often will continue to cause the same types of problems that led to the eviction action; neighboring residents will not be happy. Adding insult to injury, you may be held responsible for the resident’s legal fees and costs, an amount which could be quite substantial!


OH MONEY MONEY…

     If you’ve been renting for any length of time, you’ve certainly had your share of late payments or bounced checks.  There comes the endless excuses, whether valid or not, you have bills to pay as well.  You hear about being laid off (as unfortunate as that is), spouse gambling issues or even the dog ate the rent.  There have been stories of rent being paid on time but checks bouncing and then the late fees start adding up.  That check bounces as well.  You are at your wit’s end with this tenant. What do you do?

     Aside from tearing out your hair and pounding on the tenants door at 3 am, all you can do is submit a Three Day Notice on their door in hopes it lights a fire under their feet to get you the money.  But you wonder if that check will bounce as well.  So, you are sorely tempted to put on the notice ‘monies may be made up with either cash or money order only’.  You feel vindicated and satisfied.  Is it legal?  Only if it was a provision in the original lease. Better yet, see your attorney for proper wording.

    Another issue that comes up from time to time with clients is how to use security deposits when a lease is moving from the premises.  Everyone knows that the security deposit can be used for damages (replacing carpet, painting, drywall, etc).  But  did you realize that the security deposit can be used to collect unpaid rent the leasee owes?  Come ask our office for more details!


ABANDON HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE

Your client, the landlord, hasn’t heard from the renter in weeks, the rent is late and neighbors state they saw the people in question taking bags of items, furniture, etc., from the place for a few days the previous month.  They didn’t think anything of it, seeing as people were fumigating their own homes and gosh darnit, the neighbors did have the cutest little bulldog.  Fleas, you know. 

     The landlord enters the home and finds all the furniture gone, crumpled newspapers strewn across the floors, nail holes in the walls with bits of wire hanging from them.  In the kitchen there are odd cans of hash and spinach in the cupboards, something green in the fridge and the backyard has old broken lawn chairs.  Have the tenants abandoned the property or are they merely cleaning and renovating their lives?

     In his article/essay, Abandonment of the Premises, Michael Geo. F. Davis, Attorney at Law, discusses the nitty gritty details.  In this post, generally, a landlord must determine the value of the property left behind.  Under $500, not worth filing an eviction notice; over $500, file that puppy. 

     The actual law, Florida Statute 83.59(3)(c) sets forth how abandonment of the rental unit is determined: (c) When the tenant has abandoned the dwelling unit. In the absence of actual knowledge of abandonment, it shall be presumed that the tenant has abandoned the dwelling unit if he or she is absent from the premises for a period of time equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. However, this presumption does not apply if the rent is current or the tenant has notified the landlord, in writing, of an intended absence.