Commercial and residential landlords in Florida obviously depend upon the incoming periodic rent payments as guaranteed by their leases with tenants. A favorite tactic of a tenant who longer wishes to abide by the terms of the lease is to stop paying rent by claiming that a constructive eviction has taken place.
A constructive eviction is a valid mechanism under Florida law for a tenant to stop paying rent when there is a serious issue with the property making it uninhabitable, but in many cases a tenant will simply claim a constructive eviction as a pretext to stop paying rent when they want to move elsewhere. Here is an overview of the various ways to defend against a constructive eviction action by a tenant, and you should speak with a landlord/tenant real estate attorney in Florida for further insight and counsel on your specific situation.
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A CONSTRUCTIVE EVICTION IN FLORIDA
Florida courts will impose two duties upon most all lease agreements, regardless of whether the duties are mentioned in the lease itself: 1) an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, and 2) an implied warranty of habitability. The implied covenant of quiet enjoyment means that the tenant will be able to enjoy the property in peace, and the implied warranty of habitability means the premises are reasonably safe for living. In addition, a lease may require specific provisions related to repair and maintenance.
When one of these duties is violated, the tenant should inform the landlord of the problem in writing and give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to remedy the issue. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant may then vacate the premises. At that point, the tenant will be able to stop paying any remaining rent payments due under the lease under the theory that a constructive eviction has taken place.
HOW LANDLORDS CAN AVOID A SUCCESSFUL CONSTRUCTIVE EVICTION
First off, if the tenant has informed you of an issue and there appears to be an intention to withhold rent, obviously the first thing you can and should do is take steps to determine whether the issue is legitimate.
If it is a requested repair or other issue relating to the safety of the property, you can speak with a landlord/tenant attorney to determine what your obligations are pursuant to the lease and Florida law. If the issue relates to the covenant of quiet enjoyment - for example a complaint about a noisy neighbor - you can also speak to an attorney regarding whether the problem rises to the level of a breach of your duty and what you can and/or should do to address it.
If the tenant has already begun to withhold rent, here are several potential defenses you can explore with the assistance of your attorney:
- Did the tenant give appropriate notice regarding the underlying issue to be remedied? If not, there may not be a valid constructive eviction.
- Was the underlying issue one that is sufficient to show that the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment was breached, that the premises were not reasonably safe, or that a significant repair was not made?
- Did the tenant truly vacate the premises, or are they or their belongings still occupying the premises?
Again, speak with an attorney to determine your options in avoiding a successful constructive eviction action in Florida.
CONTACT FLORIDA REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY RYAN MYNARD TODAY ABOUT YOUR LANDLORD/TENANT MATTER
If you have any questions about landlord/tenant law in Florida, or you are seeking counsel in any other Florida real estate matter, contact Florida real estate attorney Ryan Mynard at 850-683-3940 today to get started.