When (if at all) Can a Tenant Withhold Rent ?
Under Florida Statue a Tenant cannot withhold rent from the Landlord without FIRST sending proper notice and allowing the Landlord time to cure the non-compliance, violation, or default of landlord obligations. Even then, To withhold rent comes with strict qualifications.
Failure to send the landlord the required notice has significant impact on a tenant’s rights under the rental agreement and Florida Statute. There is no automatic “self help or repairs and deduct” The notice should be delivered 7 days before the rent is due. If mailing, the tenant must add 5 days for mailing and therefore must mail it 12 days before the rent is due.
Under Florida Statute, if the landlord materially fails to comply with its obligations, then 7 (or 12 days ) after delivery of written notice by the tenant, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.
HOWEVER: If the landlords failure to comply is beyond the control of the landlord AND the landlord has made and continues to make every reasonable effort to correct the failure to comply THEN the rental agreement may be terminated or altered by the parties, as follows: (a) If the landlord’s failure to comply renders the dwelling unit untenantable\unlivable and the tenant needs to vacate, the tenant shall not be liable for rent during the period the dwelling unit remains uninhabitable.(b) However, if the landlord’s failure to comply does not render the dwelling unit untenantable and the tenant remains in occupancy, the rent for the period of noncompliance can only be reduced by an amount in proportion to the loss of rental value caused by the noncompliance. But only if tenant gave timely notice. Otherwise, tenant must pay the upcoming full month rent and can not withhold rent, not even proportional rent, until the following month.
That said, it is never a good idea and its too risky for Tenant to make its own determination as to the amount of rent deduction or to simply withhold rent. It is much safer for tenant to take that reasonable proportional amount it disputes and book it in the courts registry. Otherwise they will face the likely risk of an eviction for not paying full rent or for deducting an unreasonable proportional amount.
Bottom line: If the tenant sends a proper statutory notice, they are entitled to try and break the lease due to the damage. However, if they remain in the apartment, they must pay. If they stay and don’t pay, or if they stay and deduct an amount which the landlord disagrees with, the landlord can give them an eviction notice and let the tenant tell their story to the judge. Once legal proceedings begins, the tenant must pay all past due rent, and rent as it comes due during these legal proceedings, into the registry of the Court until the tenant’s disputes with the landlord have been resolved.
Keep in mind, if a landlord loses in court, the landlord may be held liable for any costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the tenant. If the tenant loses in court, the tenant may be liable for the landlord’s costs, attorney’s fees and if the repairs were made, the tenant will be obligated to pay the back rent that was withheld.
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This BLOG is to provide helpful information and should not be considered legal advice